This post is a collection of thoughts on how to bring more diversity into the domain of MCT. It was written by the first years students in Trondheim during the first week.
Dear ladies, do you really expect that any of you would end up working in the music industry in the future? Female engineers? Do you picture yourself running around with amplifiers bigger and heavier than yourselves? Do you think that any acoustic company really hire women? It’s all men’s work. It requires strength and analytical thinking. I don’t want to destroy your plans but forget it. It will just not happen.
It came as a surprise when starting my bachelor’s in Acoustic Engineering some years ago, it appeared that the majority of students in my faculty wasn’t men. Close to half of us were women. The very first lecture with the professor who was the mentor of our faculty quickly dashed our hopes that it would be a fair time in our - girls’ - life in terms of any gender equality.
The first paragraph is the words of a person who was supposed to lead all of us through the next 3,5 years of getting to know technology in terms of music and acoustics in general. Even though we all treated each other equally within the group of students, those words stayed somewhere at the back of our heads until the very end.
Our first point on why we believe there is a lack of diversity in music technology resulting from education and recruitment. From our observation of the available courses found in universities and schools around the world, there is a void of music technology and sound technology related courses compared to other fields of study. Along with students often having to choose between music or technology courses individually and commit to either one but seldom both at the same time.
From the experiences of our team, we also see the lack of quality when it comes to the education in the schools that have courses related to our field. Partially to blame is probably the speed at which technology is advancing, which often leads to institutes struggling to fund equipment to keep it as current as possible. To add on, due to the nature of how new the field of study is, we don’t see a lot of highly skilled mentors and educators as well.
Also, we traditionally see that women in higher education favor social studies over technological studies. Although over the years there has been an increase in women in technological studies, there is still a substantial gender gap. The gender ratio seems to vary internationally. Looking at India and Malaysia the female participation is higher compared to the west, suggesting that biological differences are less important than cultural and social factors.
When computers first became mainstream in the 80’s, it was marketed as a toy for boys, creating a social stigma. In 2018 within humanities and esthetic studies, there was a female ratio of 60% in Norway. In technological studies however, only 34% of students were female. Overall in Norway, more women get higher education compared to men, according to SSB.
Which relates to our next point, recruitment. With the absence of diverse highly skilled technologist coming out of the woodworks of education, we are lacking in numbers. With the lack of numbers, we see the lack of exposure. With the lack of exposure, we naturally see the lack of diversity as well.
We also see a void of mainstream “heroes” with women. There are the likes of Chris Lord Alge’s and Deadmau5’s for the male population to look up to but with women, one of the only few people that comes close to any mainstream fame is Sylvia Massy. She of course is a great role model however her videos are only occasionally viral. She is nowhere close to the amount of male EDM producers with billions of views on social media. This might be one of the bigger reasons for the lack of women of any racial background in the industry.
One of the current solutions is to promote a diverse range of heroes in popular culture, not only in music technology. An example where the lack of diversity becomes obvious is in festival lineups. The last few years, a number of festivals have received critique for their lack of female artists in their lineups (such as in Moldejazz 2017).
As a reaction to the imbalance in terms of gender equality, several artists and actors in the industry are speaking up to address the problem. Several well-known artists and DJ’s, both female and male, have been publicly shaming festivals for underrepresenting female artists in their lineups. It is crucial for the public awareness of such issues that key actors are highlighting the issues within their scene.
The New York based collective Discwoman is working to promote female-identified talent in the electronic music scene. “Exclusively representing women is a political act that is tied to the hope of permanently changing the music industry,” says Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, one of the founders of Discwoman. A local example of this phenomenon would be Feminalen, a festival in Trondheim which main purpose is the promotion of female talent in the Nordic music scene.
To study the gender and race of the industry’s core professions, the researchers looked at the 700 top songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2018. Across the three creative roles highlighted in the study, women make up 21.7 percent of artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2.1 percent of producers (source).
Not even mentioning any other jobs related to music industry like sound engineering, music production etc. Vast majority of people responsible for the technical side of the sound in theaters, during live concerts, on the radio or in recording studios are men. This doesn’t result from the fact that there are no women whatsoever already working, or trying to get into this field. They are just simply not as welcome as men there: mainly because of the stereotypes evolving in everyone’s (yes, also women’s!) heads since forever.
Luckily, those stereotypes are slowly but effectively changing nowadays. Self-confidence can be the first and, honestly, the best of the steps that can be taken here. Even though it’s not always that easy to be self-assured about your own skills in a world where all the time males are perceived as those who are stronger and more independent, without trying to prove your achievements and strong sides, nothing will ever change. We are on a good way to accomplish gender equality in the music industry now though - all we need is to get open to possibilities and forget about the differences. All in all, it’s contrast what makes music beautiful.
Critics will say that gender-specific organizations and events are not the way to go to promote diversity in the music industry. The state of today is still that women are underrepresented in most domains of the industry. Our opinion is that organizations and events that exclusively represent female talents should be warmly welcomed, with the acknowledgement that gender imbalance is still a fact.