This week the internet went into meltdown when the BBC announced that the new fictional TV character Doctor Who was to be played by a female actor. You would have thought that the BBC had announced that they were to screen 24/7 pottery classes while trebling the licence fee, or to reduce the number of TV shows to one a day, that show being puppy torture sessions.
It seems that despite the fearful Sea Devils, the dreadful Daleks and the unnerving Weeping Angels, for some people a female Doctor Who is just too scary!
What seemed to pass by those who were screaming 'the end is nigh' or "it's PC gone mad" or "What next Sheila Holmes or Mr Marple" is that Doctor Who can "undergo a transformation into a new physical form and a somewhat different personality." Of course, this also doesn't take into account that we are talking about a f**cking fictional character for goodness sake.
If you do have a problem with a female Doctor Who then it seems you have managed to do what your sacred hero the Doctor can do and have time-travelled back to the nineteenth century.
The BBC made another announcement this week which was the publishing of the salaries of the highest BBC earners on their talent roster. However, the fact that the highest paid woman earned a quarter of the salary of the highest paid man and that only 1/3rd of those on the list are women seems not to engender the same outrage as a female Doctor Who.
I have a mother, a wife, three sisters and four daughters, so women feature a lot in my life and matter to me. But even if your life has not been as influenced by fantastic females, they should still matter to you.
I've seen first hand how hard it is for my wife to try and return to work after having a baby. I've seen how my grown up daughters are treated simply because they happen to be missing a dick. I know where the dick has gone, it's between the ears of the man treating them like shit.
We think we've made progress in the recording industry by creating technology that means we can record an entire album on a laptop, or that we can work with people around the world via web collaboration. Bad news, we've not made that much progress if women still have to prove they are as good as men, just to get the job and probably to get paid less for the work they do.
Progress? I don't think so!
It's A Man's World
If you still happen to believe that this industry is full of men simply because men are the best people to do this work, then I've got some bad news for you...
Stop watching Game of Thrones; a woman mixes it. Onnalee Blank, an ex-ballet dancer who retrained after an injury and who has won numerous awards for her work on the show. Watch the excellent interview below with Onnalee created by our friends at McDSP.
And Star Wars, another woman mixes that. She is multiple Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Leslie Ann Jones. Star Wars is just a tiny part of her long resume.
And you can scrub the 100+ movies that Award winner Lora Hirschberg has worked on. They include the Dark Knight, Inception and The Lord of the Rings.
And that's just post production; music has equally great women delivering the goods;
Trina Shoemaker is a mixer, record producer and sound engineer responsible for producing/engineering bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris... and yes she's won a Grammy Award too!
Marcella Araica is an American recording and mixing engineer, who has recorded and mixed tracks for artists including Britney Spears, Pink, and Duran Duran.
You might be thinking, OK that's enough examples. No, it's not it's tiny compared to some of the male engineers and producers you can probably rattle off without even thinking about it.
Let me clear this article is not about suggesting positive discrimination, in my opinion, that helps no one. However, we need to face up to and end the discrimination that goes on in the audio industry, most of it is tacit discrimination.
Here are a couple of examples; you walk into a control room and there are a woman and a man sitting at the console - who do think is the senior engineer, even more importantly who do you greet first and who do you speak to when you want your questions answered? The way we answer that questions indicates if we discriminate or not.
We were having some building work done on our house and the builder hit a snag. I was out of town on business so the builder asked my wife if she could call me to discuss it. My wife politely explained that she could answer the question, the builder looked at her with bemusement and said he would wait until he had spoken to me. We also had an architect who would only speak to me about the plans for our new kitchen... we fired him.
A second example is the endless jokes shared about women in audio - they range from the sexually demeaning to the perpetuating the theory that women are stupid and couldn't possibly record and mix sound like a man. As long as we continue to allow these kind of things happen they will continue.
If you are male reading this and wondering what all the fuss is about then I want to talk to you as a Father.
Do you think it's fair that my daughters may consider themselves unsuitable for a job working in this industry simply because of their gender? Furthermore, do you think it is fair that they may be overlooked or paid less and also almost certainly have to deal with sexist attitudes and comments?
I want my kids to have every possible opportunity in life and I'm willing to fight to make sure nothing stands in their way. Kids have enough challenges making their dreams a reality, discrimination based on gender shouldn't be one.
My wife (the smart one in this relationship) told me a great thing about why events like Doctor Who being a woman is so important. She said 'you can't be what you can't see.'
We all need inspiration, those people who help us to believe that we can do something we thought impossible. When a poor kid makes it into a top University and graduates, it inspires other poor children. When a black man becomes President of the United States, it helps other black people to believe they can make a difference in politics too.
If you look at a profession and all the people are nothing like you, it's less likely that you are going to believe you can be part of the club. A few rare people see it as a challenge and a chance to change the status quo, but too many just don't bother because it seems impossible.
What do my daughters see when they look at the audio industry? Do they see something they can be? The odds are they don't; they see a male dominated industry where they wouldn't belong. And I know that there is a good chance they will be patronised and overlooked.
As I write I want to take the opportunity to mention a couple of initiatives that are supporting women working in this industry. The first is the Women's Audio Mission. Women's Audio Mission is a San Francisco-based, non-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts. In a field where women are critically under-represented (less than 5%), WAM is "changing the face of sound" by training over 1,200 women and girls in a year in music technology and media production in the only professional recording studio built and run entirely by women and girls. WAM believes that women's mastery of music technology and inclusion in the production process will expand the vision and voice of media and popular culture. You may recall we asked members of the community to help get them to AES last year.
The second is #NormalNotNovelty, an initiative run by Brendon Harding and the team at Red Bull Studios in London. Open to aspiring female music producers, DJs and sound engineers, the monthly workshops provides a relaxed space where experienced industry professionals share knowledge, advice and practical tips. More here.
So far this year they have had workshops from the likes of Flava D, Throwing Shade, Mandy Parnell, Olga Fitzroy, Monki and Coco Cole.
If I Were A Boy
I want to leave you with a final word, last week we ran an article on work experience and ran it with the picture above. I wonder how many people looked at the image and thought the man was the boss and the woman the student?
An incident took place in the Houses of Parliament where a black female MP was told by a white male MP that the lift was for MPs only and not cleaning staff.
They say that first impressions count, I also think first judgments count too, they determine the values that govern our attitudes and actions and make us who we are, real change happens inside us first. When we start to appreciate how it feels to have to fight for something then we begin to empathise and help to change things for the better.
It must be noted that the entire Expert team is male, that is not for want of trying, we would love to try and address this imbalance. If you are a women working in this industry and want to be part of our amazing team then please let us know.
The problem with women working in audio is this; we still have to talk about it in 2017. I hope that by the time my 2 year old baby daughter is old enough to work this choice of career will be normal not novelty, that would be progress!