Happy New Year to everyone, I hope that 2015 is filled with work and new adventures and experiences. As for myself, 2015 will be a slower year, as the band is taking most of the year off, and we all get some much-needed downtime. I will be able to focus my energy on SoundGirls.Org, and I hope to be able to develop a mobile production training camp for disadvantaged youth. (if you would like to be involved – please contact me)
I want to focus my blog this year on sexism not only in the industry, but also in our day-to-day lives. Through this I hope we can start a conversation on how we combat it and where we want to head. At this point, I am not sure of my direction or what I hope to achieve, but at least it will start the dialog. As always I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and advice.
When Michelle and I started SoundGirls.Org, we wanted to create a safe place for women working in audio to come for advice and support. At the same time, we knew that we needed to be welcoming to the majority of our co-workers, the men. We were well aware at how fast things can become a place to bash on women and men, and we wanted to avoid that. As we come upon our second anniversary, I feel that we have achieved this. I believe everyone, men and women have been supportive, encouraging, and have conducted themselves in a professional manner. As other women’s organizations, blogs, and websites have been viciously attacked throughout 2014, that says a lot about the professional audio and tech community – so a big Congratulations to everyone.
That being said, I have been dismayed and disheartened by the amount of experiences regarding sexism and even harassment in the industry that women have shared with me. I have been working in live sound for almost 30 years, and I can honestly say I have never experienced the amount of sexism that some of you have. I use to believe that sexism was a gradually disappearing issue. I believed that if you worked hard enough at your craft and could hold your own amongst the men, then you could succeed. Sadly, I do not completely believe that anymore.
I volunteer at the Montessori school my daughters attended and teach a Model United Nations class, where we travel to the United Nations in New York for a conference with over three hundred other Montessori Schools. I always tell the kids that you can always find an exception to the issues. That the Barrack Obama’s are the exceptions, not the reality. I now believe that I may be an exception. Throughout my career, I have always felt that I was working with people who valued me and treated me equally. I have never felt threatened or that someone was going out of their way to make my job more difficult. I have always felt that my co-workers wanted me to succeed, not fail.
Sure, I have dealt with casual sexism, and still do – from the local stagehands always telling me where production or the dressing rooms are, to off-hand remarks that women are incapable of being engineers. I am positive I have not been hired for gigs because I am a woman, but I am not aware of them. I have experienced being called for gigs because I am a woman and I have been put in the awkward position of solely being hired because I am a woman and the FOH engineer thought the artist (who was a woman) would be more comfortable working with me. I have been talked down too, cut off mid-sentence, and been called a bitch when I have had to aggressively assert myself to just be heard. Yet, in the end I have been surrounded by a supportive crew and band.
When I was younger and had less experience, I often times felt that crews were not working with me, because of my gender. Now that I am older, I can attribute some of that to lack of experience, but not all of it. I can also start to acknowledge that a lot of it was due to sexism. I came up in a different era, where it was not just uncommon for a woman to behind the soundboard, but pretty much unheard off. I knew there was sexism, and I knew I would have to just power through. I was breaking doors down, and I had to blend and fit in with the guys. I just learned how to deal with it and ignore it.
I have to ask what happened to our culture since the 90’s to now? It seems that we have lost so much valuable ground that so many before us fought for. While it is encouraging to see so many women working in audio, it is disheartening to see the lack of diversity on crews and in our trade publications. I am disgusted when I hear stories of women being told they are not being hired because the crew chief does not want to work with women, and I am pretty sure illegal. I am horrified when I hear stories of sexual harassment on the job, it is not only terrifying to work under those conditions, but there is not an outlet to address these issues. Where do we go to report sexual harassment? How many remain silent for fear of losing or being blacklisted from work? How many women have given up because the obstacles are just too hard to overcome?
The attitudes and culture come from the top and trickles down through organizations, companies, and production teams. If, for example, the management of a sound company believes that they cannot find qualified women, then that attitude trickles down to every aspect of the company. Soon it becomes a hostile place for women, where they are judged more than their male counterparts, where they constantly have to prove themselves and find they cannot make any mistakes. They are not given the same luxury of learning from their mistakes or feel safe asking questions. When the women finally give up, it reinforces the belief that the company just can’t find women that can cut it.
There are plenty of sound companies and production teams that value a diversified crew and are more than welcoming to women. A few off the top of my head are Clair Brothers, Delicate Productions, Britannia Row, and Sound Image. They employ more than the token Sound Girl. Smaller regional companies such as Carlson Audio out of Seattle have a welcoming culture. Many of our members have started their careers at Carlson, and a few are currently working for them. Hopefully, I will get a ton of emails from companies I did not mention to prove that the above companies aren’t just the exceptions.
These are just some of my thoughts on where we are at in the industry. I hope to focus each blog on an experience, example, or issue regarding sexism through the year. If you have a suggestion or a topic you would like to have covered – please let me know. All Are Welcome to Join the Discussion.
Happy New Year.