2017 looks like the year when the industry finally started walking the talk about amplifying women’s voices, both on and off stage.
In June, Spotify’s Daniel Ek and Max Martin launched the Equalizer Project, which focuses on increasing the number of female songwriters; in August, Melvin Benn’s Festival Republic announced ReBalance, a three-year project aimed at addressing the chronic gender imbalance in the music industry; and in October, PRS Foundation went live with Keychange, a European project that will empower 60 female artists and industry innovators. Meanwhile, many Scandinavian festivals are already committed to a 50:50 gender-balanced bill.
Anders Wahren, of Roskilde Festival in Denmark, said: “We try to inspire – through the very talented artists we have on our stages; through the work we do with organisations and underground promoters such as Freemuse, Girls are Awesome and Femtastic; and by having debates and talks with artists such as Madame Gandhi and Princess Nokia at this year’s festival. We can encourage our audience, upcoming artists and potential future artists, by supporting campaigns for more girls to pick up an instrument, and setting up summer camps for girls. There is a lot to be done that does not start with the big festival stages – but the beauty of it all is that when we, as a non-profit festival, fund causes like this, we actually also help develop the future headliners that we will be presenting in five to ten years.”
These initiatives are to be applauded, and are clear signs that the 21st-century music industry has finally realised that there are huge business advantages to be gained from promoting women on stage and behind the curtain. All the research reports that diverse teams of people are more creative, more dynamic, and more profitable to an organisation than homogenous teams, which in the music industry’s case – and in many others – means middle-aged, Western, white men. It makes good business sense to fully capitalise on the talents of the entire workforce. It makes good commercial sense to design festival bills that reflect the diversity of consumers and the multicultural society we live in.
Progress on gender equality and diversity is not an either/or – the work needs to progress in parallel. Both need targets and strategic plans if they are to change the mix of leadership teams. Both are at different levels. BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) staff struggle to reach middle management in numbers, and women hit the wall at middle management, so a talent pipeline needs to be built.
“The working culture was designed by men in the middle of the last century”
Here, unconscious bias recruitment and mentoring is key: if you can see it, you can believe it.
Digital technology has transformed our lives and yet its potential to transform our working lives, known as ‘smart working,’ is still to be realised in most music biz offices. The working culture was designed by men in the middle of the last century, and it’s based on command and control, presenteeism, an obsession with process, the jacket on the back of the chair, the need for the boss to look out at his team. Modern companies are task-and-output focused – employees are encouraged to work flexibly, and they are trusted and given responsibility: if you can’t trust your team, then why are they working for you? Smart working increases access to a much broader range of people, for whom working in an office five days a week is not practical or desirable. In 2014, government legislation was introduced giving every employee the right to flexible working – who knew?
Smart working is a proven game-changer for creating a diverse and more gender-equal workforce, and it allows a more balanced work/home life, which, thankfully, is a huge priority for Generation Y – the days of the macho, stay-in-the-office-all-hours type are thankfully dying out, as are the industry’s old guard.
The music industry is largely made up of small- to medium-sized companies that often have no HR function and certainly no company manuals, hence knowledge about employee rights, such as shared parental leave, can be sketchy. This is an area that should be addressed with the utmost urgency and requested by staff.
The future is looking bright, in the hands of a new generation of leaders who grew up with diversity, increasing gender equality and a life that has balance. Everyone has a part to play in bringing this change.
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