Have things improved since you started in the industry?
The climate has changed since I first got into the audio industry as a student (in 1999). Back then, you’d go to an audio trade show (like AES or NAMM) and the women who generally got attention were “booth babes” (women dressed in skimpy clothes and taking photos with guys visiting their booth). Today, women working the floor and attending conventions are generally knowledgeable of the products they are selling or buying. You’ll meet interesting women who are engineers, mixers, product designers, product managers, software developers.
How often did you meet other women in the field back then?
It used to be rare to see female engineers or mixers in audio magazines or speaking publicly.
I didn’t meet or interact with a professional female engineer until my last year of college. I remember spending a lot of time observing my professor, Martha DeFrancesco, a classical music producer. I was intrigued about how she communicated and interacted during sessions because I really didn’t know how I should act or carry myself. It’s a balance for any producer to offer input and lead a session without being too aggressive or authoritarian – especially a female producer. Martha was a great role model for how to do that effectively.
Do you believe the film industry is sexist?
I think there’s a big difference between lack of diversity and sexism. I view sexism as saying a woman doesn’t deserve a job or opportunity as much as a man. In the US, that would be called “sex-based discrimination.” While this may be happening in some roles in the film industry, I generally don’t see it on the audio side. The audio industry (for film/tv) isn’t necessarily sexist; there’s just a lot of guys!
That’s not to say I haven’t experienced sex-based discrimination. I was asked at an interview once if I was married or planning on having kids soon (illegal!). A studio owner once told me he’d never hire a female assistant again because he had to fire the last one (illegal!) In instances like that, I could have easily reported it and got them in trouble, but it’s a catch-22 when you want (or need) a job. That’s the real battle that women and marginalized people face in the industry: when to speak up. Sometimes the higher road is to move on. You have to pick your battles and some aren’t worth fighting – not because you won’t win but because some opportunities (or difficult people) aren’t worth the effort..
Why are there not more women in top jobs? Is there a glass ceiling?
Most people who are getting into our field today have an equal opportunity if they are willing to put in the time/effort plus have the temperament and necessary skills (such as technical, business and social) to be employable. It could look biased if you compare across all levels of experience but someone entering the field today can’t compare themselves to someone who’s been in the field 30 years. Being realistic about it: If you’re looking for someone with 25 years of experience in the audio industry (in roles like engineer or mixer), there’s a 99% chance it’s going to be a guy. But, if you’re looking for someone with 10-15 years of experience, there’s maybe 90-95% chance of being a guy. That may not seem like a big difference, but as our big-name industry veterans start to retire (say, in the next ten years), there’s going to be qualified women moving into some of those top-tier jobs. In time, that circle will continue to grow. In 15 years, the look of the industry (and the dynamic) could be very different – and that’s when someone getting in the field today will be qualified for those top-tier opportunities.
What are your thoughts on helping/recommending other women who need work?
Some would argue that we (as women in the field) need to help other women get jobs but isn’t that a form of bias, too? I don’t recommend friends or family unless I’m positive they are the best person for the job, so why would I prioritize someone just because of their gender or race? When I meet a woman who needs help finding work, I treat her exactly the same as a man; I ask, what is her experience level? How is her attitude? How open is she to learning? Does she seem like a good match for any professionals/facilities I have a relationship with already? I’m happy to recommend someone for a job or internship when I think the relationship will benefit both parties.
With that said, I think there’s a huge benefit to being visible and accessible to other women (when it seems appropriate) and that can lead to opportunities. Maybe it’s as simple as an email exchange, meeting for coffee, introduction, or letting someone sit in with you on the job for a day. In some cases, that support may be assistance with job placement or an internship/mentorship.
The more women share stories and knowledge it’ll allow other women who are interested in the field or who need assistance to come forward for that support. That’s the great thing about organizations like Soundgirls.org or Women’s Audio Mission that bring us together. They’re openly saying, “yeah, there are women working in the field and they do the job just as well as anyone else.” Not only can we find each other, but we are becoming a support network to each other in ways other than just “help me find a job.” In the end, that kind of support makes us unique – and that could attract more women to the field, too.
April Tucker: April holds both a Master’s Degree and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sound Recording, and has over 10 years experience in the field. April works primarily as a re-recording mixer and sound editor (based in Los Angeles), but also has experience as a music editor and mixer, and ADR and Foley engineer.
About April: April enjoys doing educational outreach such as writing for industry blogs, writing articles for the Cinema Audio Society’s Quarterly Magazine, and also giving lectures and presentations. For fun, April enjoys having an organic vegetable garden, tap dancing, and training her four cats to do tricks.