By: Karrie Keyes
I read a Tumblr post recently that was in response to the fabulous Pro Sound Interview with producer and recording engineer Trina Shoemaker. The author of the post wrote that after reading the article, she had resigned herself to the fact that to make it in the pro audio industry she would never have children.
The post struck me as sad, a bit feel sorry for me, and a luxury. It is sad, and a reality that women pursuing a career in pro audio will have to face. It is also a reality that women face as they pursue careers in all sorts of fields. It is a bit whiny as it is a choice to pursue a career in pro audio, and it is a choice whether to have children or not. It is a luxury to be able to make those choices, one that millions of women will never have.
Millions of women do not have access to education, and I am not talking just about women living in third world countries, but women right here in the United States. Social class plays a big role in access to educational opportunities. Politco.com reported “students in the most affluent U.S. schools — where fewer than 10 percent of children are eligible for subsidized lunches — scored so highly that if treated as a separate jurisdiction, they would have placed second only to Shanghai in science and reading and would have ranked sixth in the world in math”. This is a stark contrast to where the rest of the United States ranks; 26th in math, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. Educational opportunities in the United States are clearly unequal and deny the opportunity of higher education or attending a trade school to millions of high school graduates.
While many of us working in the industry are self taught and got to where we are by hard work and dedication, it has become increasingly important to have a solid technical background. There are several community colleges and trade schools that offer solid programs. They will help you get your foot in the door. It will take years to perfect your craft, working long hours for low wages, leaving only those with solid support networks able to pursue a career in the industry. Many simply do not have the luxury to pursue a career in pro audio.
Women today are entering and graduating from college at higher rates than men. They also go on to earn Master and Doctorate degrees at higher rates than men. Yet, 75% of the master degrees are in five fields; education, business, health, public administration, and psychology. What this tells us is that women’s choices are shaped by social norms, expectations, and constraints. It would suggest that women make career choices based on how accommodating they will be when they choose to become mothers. So until society catches up, women will continue to have to make tough choices when it comes to pursuing certain career paths.
Whether you choose to work in live sound or the recording studio, you are going to start at the bottom, work long hours, and be available for any job 24/7. As you move up the ladder you will still be working long hours, often far from home, but hopefully with better pay. You will most likely not have a life outside of work and dating and finding a life partner presents its own challenges. Many women working in the industry have no desire to become mothers, but for those of us that do, the industry presents challenges that seem to make motherhood unattainable.
I remember sitting on a tour bus at a festival in Switzerland and listening to the guys talk about their wives holding the down the fort. Their wives took care of the kids, the house, the bills. I sat there and thought about the luxury they had in that they could pursue a life on the road, and still have a family base at home. They asked me if I would ever have kids? I told them I could not see how unless I had a wife at home. (my partner toured for a living as well) I told them this as I sat there pregnant and had no idea what I was going to do.
Like so many things in life – you figure it out. So while it is not easy to work in this industry and be a mother it certainly does not automatically rule it out. My daughters have just turned 18, and we made it work. For the next few months, we will explore the unique challenges that the industry presents to mothers.
I would love to hear from you, your stories, how you made it work or not?