Recently we posted two articles about gender equality in our industry. Emma Butt wrote about a new organisation called Glass Elevator set up to help women working in film break through the glass ceiling. Then Audrey Martinovich looked the gender imbalance in the music industry following a report from the Audio Engineering Society and research by USC Annenberg. Are we wrong to be wanting to strive for gender equality in our industry?
There seems to be a view that “trying to force women into something they don’t naturally want to do is wrong” or “In free civilizations people choose their professions. Making the quota programs such as Affirmative Action are failures”. This got me thinking, does gender equality come down to nature or nurture?
Nature Or Nurture?
Why should there be anything that only women would naturally want to do? Apart from childbirth there is no natural reason why any task, job or pastime should be exclusively for men or women. So that deals with the nature issue quite quickly, which means this is all down to nurture. Take a look at this video shot in a UK school…
This film from MullenLowe London captures how, even early on in their education, children already define career opportunities as male and female. When asked to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot, 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 were female. The gender stereotypes where already programmed in at that early stage. Listen to the language the children use. Even when the female surgeon, firefighter and fighter pilot came into the room one child calls out “why are they dressed up?” implying that even though they were in the room the child still could not accept these jobs could be done by women, they were only dressing up and pretending.
As parents we know how hard it is to push against the gender stereotypes. Walk into any toy store and look at how and what toys are promoted and selected as suitable for boys and girls. The girl’s aisles are all pink and are dolls and child rearing based, whereas the boy’s aisles are black and orange and have all the adventure toys, tool sets, as well as guns and war related toys.
Back in the UK, Prince Harry and Meghan have recently come in for a lot of criticism both in the press and the establishment when Meghan was reported as having said that they plan to raise their child with a fluid approach to gender and they won’t be imposing any stereotypes. The press have unfortunately jumped on the word ‘fluid’ and what that could mean, rather than commend Meghan and Harry for standing up against imposing gender stereotyping.
What Can We Do?
The only way we can start to break down these gender stereotypes is if as a society we stop reinforcing these stereotypes. As parents, Sally and I brought up our 2 girls with as few gender stereotypes as possible. For example they played with a train set and set it up around ‘world’s made up of Barbies, and Bratz dolls as well as Lego Bionicles. We have brought them up to believe they can do anything they put their mind to and not to be constrained by gender stereotypes.
This can extend beyond those you are parents to anyone who comes into contact with children and young people, whether in a professional capacity, or as extended family or friends. The key is to not reinforce gender stereotypes and then be positive about anything, and encourage everyone, irrespective of their gender or ethnic background.
We can support other organisations doing great work to close the gender gap. The Women’s Audio Mission are doing great work especially in The Bay area. We have just learnt that they have been has been selected for major funding ($80,000) from Intel as part of a new middle school girls initiative. For the first-time ever, their groundbreaking Girls on the Mic program will be offered in the South Bay through an unprecedented partnership with The Tech Museum in San Jose.
You can get involved and support the #HeForShe campaign. The HeForShe campaign was launched by the UN in 2014, with a speech by actor Emma Watson. The HeForShe campaign describes itself “as a solidarity movement for gender equality which calls upon men and boys to help end the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally”.
In February 2018 the Audio Engineering Society (AES) UK held a panel at the University of York to discuss the gender imbalance in the audio industry. Women make up just 5% of the Society’s members, which inspired the organisers to link up with the UN’s global HeForShe campaign for the event to see if they could make a difference
In my view, it is the only way we can make sure that, for example, women in our industry can consider the possibility that they can break out of roles like ‘hair and makeup’ or being the ‘female vocalist’ in an act and break through the glass ceiling to aspire to roles like record producer or film director. But to get there society has to stop gender stereotyping our children from birth, and that process should start with each and everyone of us.