Give peeps a chance
I’m impressed with what 2019 has offered so far in the way of women achieving greatness and it being celebrated, both close to home and worldwide. The 2019 Grammy awards were pioneering for women in the industry with 31 award winners, which is an increase of 82% from last year, sweeping the board across all areas including classical music and production. While the work of women is recognised at the highest levels, the language surrounding them is still being improved. Oscar-winning sound editor Nina Hartstone was covered by the BBC in the run-up to the event with the headline “The sound-editor mum up for an Oscar.” After something of a public backlash, the BBC rephrased their reporting on the feature to “From tea girl to Oscars red carpet,” and it now appears in online searches under the headline “Bohemian Rhapsody: First Oscars night for sound editor.” Considering Hartstone is a woman with 25 years experience in the industry and a string of A-list film credits in her portfolio, the backlash seems like fair criticism. It is refreshing to have seen the conversations and the subsequent corrections that were made to this error of judgment.
I wonder if a shift is finally happening around us, as for the first time I’ve experienced, being a woman in music seems to be supported, encouraged, and has positively impacted me – on a much smaller scale of course! While positive discrimination is illegal under UK law, positive action is when an employer takes steps to help or encourage certain groups of people with different needs, who are disadvantaged in some way, access work or training. I have been heartened to see big and small organisations alike encouraging the inclusion of women where there is a disparity. The Grammy Recording Academy Task Force on Inclusion and Diversity is announcing the launch of the Producer and Engineering Inclusion Initiative – an industry-wide initiative that asks that at least two women are identified and therefore considered as part of the selection process every time a music producer or engineer is hired. In the UK, The Musician’s Union is currently launching a mentoring scheme for women in association with Shesaid.So, as well as consulting with ministers in Government to implement policies that will promote parity for women in music. The MU also hosted a conference for Women in Music this month, which was a hugely positive event I attended that was filled with inspirational speakers, workshops and chances to network, share connections and experiences as well as business talk with like-minded individuals.
Recently I’ve been pleasantly surprised to have found positive action in motion via new allies in my work; taking on a client who specifically encouraged women to reach out, and also starting some audio work for a lovely company looking to support equality with the work they’re doing in the industry. This last few months have been quite unfamiliar to me, coming from a background where I’ve often felt like the ‘token woman’ at work, a subordinate, or at worst a ‘threat’ in a world where our major achievements are so often defined as secondary to our matriarchal or marital status.
While there’s still a lot of room for improvement across the board, and unsolicited explanations on the fundamentals of what I do from ‘helpful’ outsiders still regularly infest my space, they don’t hold the weight they once did. I can see positive changes that are both aspirational and experiential for the first time in my life, and that’s brand new. Even my local BBC radio station has shown support for female-led happenings in the industry, inviting me to be part of a conversation this week on the subject of women in music, and it feels like people are banding together to address the disparity and actually do something to proactively change it. It is a change that I hope will continue to flourish far and wide, and I also have hope that this is the start of better times ahead for all of us wherever we are, in our pursuit of making music and being heard.
Michelle Sciarrotta is a singer/songwriter, composer, and musician. She holds a BA in Music Performance and a music teaching degree. Michelle has worked all over the UK and Europe as a guitarist and co-writer with Blaze Bayley, and she self-produces her solo projects. She is passionate about women’s rights and education for girls.