From the moment a woman takes an interest in music, she is entering a culture that still to this day is dominated by men – whether it’s the staff in record shops, the bands in your local pub or roadies for stadium gigs. Currently in the UK, women only make up just 5% of all sound engineers, and ‘Music Producers Guild’ estimates that still only 6% of its members are women.
Nearly all performances, more than two-thirds of the live bands performing in the UK will feature no women on stage, according to a Guardian analysis.
Leading female musicians and industry figures say the intimidation and exclusion begins in childhood, with girls not being encouraged to play guitar or join bands in school, they are mostly encouraged to become ‘pop stars and be in pop groups’ over playing instruments in bands. There is also little to no encouragement or education when it comes to working or finding a job within the music business industry for anyone, not just women, so quite often it is something that doesn’t even cross your mind growing up.
“It’s a misrepresentation of our own identity, as we have a society where 50% of the population are women,” says Vanessa Reed, CEO of the PRS for Music Foundation, a leading music charity. “If you’re underrepresented in an industry, you’re going to feel like you have less reason to put yourself forward or less chance of getting support. You need to see it if you’re going to be it,” she says.
In the UK, the PRS Foundation launched Women Make Music in 2011, a programme to encourage more female songwriters and composers to come forward for music-related grants, after they discovered just 16% of applications were from women. Dice, a gig listings app, started Girls Music Day in 2016: a series of talks to inspire young women to get involved in the music industry. And this year, PRS Foundation and Festival Republic launched ReBalance: a Leeds-based programme to offer studio time for female-led bands, and promote female producers and engineers.
Inspiring the next generation is paramount. “How do you change people’s perceptions? By putting on events, raising awareness that girls can do this, and giving girls positive female role models that aren’t just stereotypical popstar figures, is a step in the right direction.
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