Gender Inequality: Bridging the gap

17 May 2018

Arguably one of the hottest topics over the past twelve months in and out of dance music is the redressing of balance between genders or in fact any minorities. We have long been living with our heads in the sand but now in the age of transparency through a wealth of information online there has been an increase of movements and pressure groups largely in part to the rise of social media and online networks being created. There is nowhere to hide for those who are trying to cover up any wrongdoings.

The issue of gender equality has bubbled under the surface for some time, until recently  when film executive and producer Harvey Weinstein was exposed for sexual harassment  Rose McGowan and Sarah Judd which then led to a plethora of women coming forward detailing their own horrific experiences with Weinstein.

These revelations sent shudders across numerous industries; this topic has now come to the forefront in the music industry if it wasn’t already, when at Christmas Victoria Derbyshire interviewed four victims on her BBC show who say sexual abuse and harassment is “endemic” in the music industry with “dangerous men” abusing their power.

One of those interviewed Yasmin Lajoie a former exec at Sony/ATV Music Publishing was inspired to come forward post Weinstein, she begun collecting stories from other women and what she found is;

Sexual assault and abuse in the music industry is endemic. I don’t have a single peer in the music industry who’s never been sexually harassed or assaulted.”  Yasmin Lajoie

Whilst Sarah Bowden manager of electronic dance music artist Grum has said sheaccepted” she would have to “suffer” on the way up as not to ‘”rock the boat” in her career progression.

Is this what has been deterring women from entering the music industry? statistics such as this would suggest it is;

A recent USC study revealed that only 16% of chart-topping artists over the past six years were women, and behind the scenes, the gender ratio of male producers to female producers is 49 to 1. Then there’s the Grammys, which the study found had 90% male nominees over the past five years, and only featured one woman, Alessia Cara, accepting her own award at this year’s televised show. – Refinery 29, Arianna Davis

With women across the music industry having encountered such horrific events is it any wonder we are left with such an imbalance?

This is only a snapshot of statistics from a pool of 600 songwriters in pop music but from my own personal experience as an artist manager actively seeking to represent female talent there does not appear to be as many prevalent DJ/producers out there to choose from in comparison to males, or perhaps there is and it is just there are less obvious accessible paths to finding these talents. During my search I have come across plenty of talented women from the business and creative side, although with the topic ever present in people’s minds it has really pushed everyone to dig a little deeper for those talents as I begin to see more and more event organisers, record labels and artist booking and management agencies searching for female talent and adding talent to their rosters. Whilst maybe therein itself lies the issue we shouldn’t have to be pushed to “dig a little deeper” to find these talents.

A positive step in the right direction, however it does not address the issues of sexual assault and gender inequality. We need to get to a place where women, feel valued respected and above all else equal when entering into the music industry. Although this article is focused on gender, I believe the same should apply to any minority group in the music industry.

Ideas on How to Tackle the Issue

I recall instances of gender inequality being brought up in traditionally male centric industries such as engineering or science based roles. We can look to these industries to see how they are tackling this imbalance and draw inspiration to continue pushing for equality in our own industry and our everyday lives for that matter.

Equality & Diversity Programmes

These types of issues are usually best tackled at grass-roots with programmes from leading companies within the respective industries to encourage more women or minorities into the respective profession.

Now whilst I cannot speak from experience as a thirty-something white middle class male, if I look at the issue objectively, it boils down to the industry putting such measures in place to demonstrate they are open and welcoming to women or anyone for that matter. However until now I have not seen or heard companies with positions of power doing enough to show they are champions of gender equality or diversity and there do not seem to be many known for their gender equality and diversity programmes (if they even have them) at their respective organisations. I know if a company is not shying away from these topics and is proactive rather than reactive I am more inclined to be endeared to them and have a greater desire to work with or for them, and I am sure this would apply for any prospective woman considering a career in music.

I took a look at some of the major players in electronic dance music across the spectrum in a few different professional areas including artist management, booking agencies, event and promotion companies, media & PR agencies and record labels. From the 14 organisations I looked at only three organisations detailed either an equality and diversity programme or employed almost 50% women and one surprise Listen Up Biz who overwhelmingly have 22 women team members to 13 men.

For any organisations reading this who might have reservations about taking steps to introduce an equality and diversity programme or create a better workplace culture, consider this – it can only be a positive thing for your company and the way you are perceived.

It will open up the field of talent you can choose from by being aggressive in your attitude towards equality and diversity and creating a positive work environment which can only be a good thing for business, right?

The only company which sticks out in my mind as being vocal and a proud champion of employing women in their organisation is Sir Lucian Grange of Universal Music, beyond this I seldom see anyone else apart from other female music executives in the media being proactive or vocal in their stance to support equality or diversity in the workplace.

The Future

On the flip-side at least now the subject is less of a taboo than in the past, there is an unprecedented level of empowerment not just for women to speak out but also for men throughout the industry who may have wanted to speak up and support equality but for fear of damaging their own careers or even losing their jobs.

The positives are beginning to show, as I see weekly more and more people from my networks actively seeking new talented female producers to play at their events or release music on their labels.

Also since Victoria Derbyshire’s programme last year, the four women who spoke out have gone on to set up a campaign called ‘Stop 2018’ calling for changes to the way women are protected from sexually aggressive behaviour in the UK music industry.

Whilst American Express at the recent Billboard Music Awards announced the launch of their ‘Women In Music Leadership Academy’;

Gail Mitchell (senior editor at Billboard Magazine): “At our Billboard Women In Music Awards this year, American Express announced that in April, they’ll be launching the Women In Music Leadership Academy, a three to five day training to give leadership and management skills to 48 women in senior positions in music. I think programs like that are integral in helping us see real change, so any companies out there that might be reading this: We need more of them. The solution lies in anyone with power doing what they can to raise up the next generation of changemakers. The time has come!”

Another initiative which has recently come to fruition within dance music is the launch of a sexual harassment helpline set up by Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) and DJMag along with an active push for putting more women on the front cover of the magazine.

“The new helpline, operated by workplace health organisation Health Assured, is being staffed by trained experts, who will listen to and support anyone who calls in.

The number to call is 0800 030 5182.”

Together Not Apart

Whilst there is clearly work to be done from a problem which has long been endemic throughout the industry for years, we must use this negative past as drive and inspiration to continue on the good work set out by the initiatives mentioned and any others who are taking active measures to redress balance and also provide a safer environment for women wishing to pursue a career in the music scene.

This is not done through negative and divisive behaviour but rather recognising and respecting what has happened and continuing to be positive in supporting those trying to make adjustments or changes in their respective professions linked to music, encouraging those who have been victim to such horrific behaviour to come forward with their own experiences or anyone else in any other industry we may encounter.

When reading a recent article from Emma-Lee Moss in GQ Magazine this personally struck a chord with me;

“The idea of opening up about these things tapped into my greatest fear (after flip-flops), which is to appear vulnerable.” – Emma-Lee Moss, GQ Magazine

As the greatest strength one can show is vulnerability. Just imagine if all of the women post Weinstein had not come out we might not be where we are and almost certainly would have continued to bury our heads in the sand.

After all dance music in particular was built on positive energy and inclusivity and we must continue to preserve this to ensure the future is better for everyone.

Article written by Jack Broom

My name is Jack Broom I have been working in the dance music industry since 2011 first co-founding Progressive Trance and EDM Artist Bookings & Management agency ‘Evolved Artists’ – achieving success through launching and managing careers of artists;  Andy Duguid, Fisherman & Hawkins, Karanda and Mark Sixma. 

In 2015 I moved onto a new and exciting venture setting up my own management company 1712 Artists. The management company specialises in discovering raw talent within the house and techno spectrum and building the foundations to launch their careers in dance music. I represent;  GruuvElement’s, Hazzaro, James Burton, Jay De Lys, Joseph Edmund and Waitz.