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Engendering equality!

Esther Rieger-Breuer, founder of the WomenVentures network, asks whether we are in need of a discussion on gender equality in the music industry

26 Feb 2016

Esther Rieger-Breuer

Lately I have been working extensively with the subject of feminism and women’s networks in the music industry, as I’d been feeling for a few years that the industry lacked such a support structure. Having grown up in the music industry, I count myself among the few second-generation women who are actually working as concert promoters.

As such, I know exactly what it means to be working in a male-dominated field and the challenges inherent with gaining acceptance or being assertive, ideally without having to raise the gender question, since it’s often associated with feminism. Honestly, using the word ‘feminism’ also used to make my hair stand on end, but feminism simply means:

1.The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
2. Organised activity in support of women’s rights and interests.

I recently read a Forbes article about women not wanting to feel or be excluded by broaching the topic of gender differences, but in talks with other professional women on this issue, it became clear rather quickly that there is a demand for a medium of sorts, to exchange ideas and share experiences.

These women feel underpaid, unappreciated, undervalued, miscast, or have lower positions than their male counterparts (eg junior instead of senior positions), or encounter may I speak to your boss-type situations. They are often cross-examined regarding their ability to combine work/family life/kids or to perform their responsibilities adequately if they have children, and are therefore often passed over in favour of, or treated differently from, their male counterparts. Case in point, Yahoo’s shares fell by 2% after CEO Marissa Mayer recently announced her second pregnancy, even though she’ll only be taking 2 weeks maternity leave.

The traditions of going to gentlemen’s clubs, making deals on the golf course, and old-boys-club style nepotism, are an acceptable and tacitly approved means of men doing business, so why should a woman be ashamed to claim the same right for herself in a setting which is accessible to women?

This level of expected efficiency is always centred around the individual and their actual or perceived productivity, commitment, and loyalty, which is why I hope providing women with a forum to exchange thoughts, share ideas and connect, away from prejudices, will empower them.

The traditions of going to gentlemen’s clubs, making deals on the golf course, and old-boys-club style nepotism, are an acceptable and tacitly approved means of men doing business, so why should a woman be ashamed to claim the same right for herself in a setting which is accessible to women? It should be noted that it does not mean that men will be excluded from the network. Men within my own professional network immediately pledged their assistance and resources upon hearing my idea of starting a networking platform for women in the creative industries, especially since they have actively supported female colleagues throughout the years.

As an artist manager and concert promoter, I made a conscious decision to develop a network within the creative industries, since I have built and maintained numerous points of contact with other industries and especially because diversification within the music industry has become increasingly crucial to longevity. Nowadays, companies are as much of a brand themselves as the artists they represent and establishing a strong brand requires being sustainable and building synergies with other fields.

Implementing a female-to-male quota system in our industry, something recently discussed for the German Lollapalooza festival line-up, seems ridiculous and sends the wrong message. Women are not the weaker sex

Implementing a female-to-male quota system in our industry, something recently discussed for the German Lollapalooza festival line-up, seems ridiculous and sends the wrong message. Women are not the weaker sex. Although having historically emancipated themselves from many anachronistic ways of thinking, change has been extremely slow in our line of business. It speaks volumes that there are few women in technical positions in our industry.

So why is a women-specific network vital? Because we still lack socially accepted gender equality standards. Because communication and rhetoric standards are orientated towards men. Because women often forfeit their value and fall into stereotypical gender hierarchy roles, and practice verbal and nonverbal submission rituals more frequently than men who tend to adopt dominant conversational styles.

Do we need to debate the merits of feminism or gender equality? No. Why engage a topic that lacks acceptance, even amongst some women? It should be obvious that we can engage in women-specific networks and mediums to build synergies, exchange ideas, share experiences, offer expertise, and provide guidance and mentoring, just like men have traditionally done for years.

Ultimately, we have to create more networking opportunities and emancipate ourselves.