International Women’s Day 2021
On March 8th 2021, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, an event that recognises the significant social, cultural and economic contributions that women make to society, many of which are often overlooked. The UK is often regarded as a progressive nation; however there are still significant gender imbalances that are yet to be confronted. All year round women are out there breaking glass ceilings, but International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to focus on how far we’ve come in the battle for gender equality and how far we can still go.
The music industry has long been something of a boys’ club, dominated by male artists, stakeholders, sound engineers, booking agents, roadies and more. The importance of strong female role models within the industry can not be overstated. In order to combat the “boys’ club” rhetoric and close the representation gap even further, it is critical to create and promote nurturing environments for women in all facets of the industry.
A Pitchfork survey completed in 2018 found that on the whole, women make up less than 20% of the average lineup. Some of the world’s biggest artists are women, yet year after year we see women being ignored by festivals. Bigger festivals such Reading & Leeds, Glastonbury, Coachella and Lollapalooza champion the biggest names, but looking further down the bill, the disparity becomes more obvious. Take the Reading and Leeds 2020 release as an example: on all 6 stages, the lineup features only 20 female artists, with only 3 of those appearing on the main stage.
The fact is that these are very difficult changes to make because the perspectives and behaviours that fuel injustice are so deeply rooted. The gender inequality we see in music mirrors the imbalance we see in society as a whole, and eradicating it is a slow process. Encouragingly though, gender gaps have been narrowing in recent years, but this isn’t by chance: it’s the result of concerted efforts by dedicated individuals and organisations determined to make a difference.
Keychange 50:50 is probably the most prominent of these programmes, and one that is very close to us at Wild Paths. Established by PRS Foundation, Reeperbahn Festival, and Musikcentrum Öst, they seek to eradicate male-dominated lineups with the goal to make the music industry gender-balanced by 2022. With over 400 organisations from 12 countries around the world already signing the pledge, ranging from small venues to large festivals and organisations, we have hope and trust that meaningful progress is on the way.
Having specific numbers or target percentages like these is one way to promote equality, but quotas can have both benefits and drawbacks, with many people claiming that the talent and merit of the individual is overlooked in order to reach a goal. It can foster beliefs such as “she just got the job because they wanted to hire a woman,” but this thinking won’t be challenged until it’s forced to be, and perhaps then we can start proving that the opposite is true. Setting goals will hopefully make us realise how simple it is to meet them – and to do so with a diverse group of incredibly talented women.
However, quotas alone will not solve the problem; they must be enforced in partnership with a shift in attitude. We hope that like-minded teams can enact positive action here, and consequently open up the discussion in other sectors.
Whilst international pledges tackle the problem from a legislative angle, education and inclusion are equally important ways to combat these disparities. Although discrimination in the music industry disproportionately affects women and non-binary people, it is everyone’s problem. Institutionalised sexism cannot be successfully fought until it is addressed by everyone.
This year’s IWD theme is #choosetochallenge. We can all choose to challenge gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. There is a future in music where women aren’t just celebrated because they’ve made it against all odds, but because they’re just fucking great at what they do.
This International Women’s Day we should all be celebrating our successes so far and we, as a team and as individuals, will continue to fight and implement measures that influence equality.
At Wild Paths we’re shining a spotlight on our favourite female* creatives, who’ve pushed boundaries in their particular field and championed equality in innovative and admirable ways. (*Inclusive of a plurality of femme voices including trans, queer and non-binary people.) Keep an eye on our socials as we’ll be presenting our very own Women In The Industry series – a selection of articles and video interviews with some of our favourite women who’ve been championing equality, female empowerment and generally doing cool shit.
What are you doing this year to challenge the issues within your industry?