Hello, gentlemen! I would just like to start off by saying that the vast majority of you are lovely humans. In the wake of movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, you may be feeling hyper vigilant and nervous about actions you make around us women, in case your best intentions get misinterpreted.
While your gender significantly outnumbers ours, especially on the business side of the music industry, we all agree, time and time again, that having a little diversity in your company’s meeting room, on your organization board of directors, or on a poster for your festival’s lineup adds fresh and innovative ideas to your vision.
This article lists ten ways to encourage women in the music business. Some require boldly speaking up, and some can be done quietly when going about your workday. All are legit ways to let women in the music business know we are welcome here, and valued. Let’s get started.
(1) Communicate Professionally
Play it safe and use email as much as possible. If you must communicate via mobile device, ask her if that’s alright first (as opposed to adding her number off the employee database). Similarly, ask before following her on non-business social media.
If you are working on a project together, keep conversation to that project, and within reasonable business hours (“wyd” at 2am does not a good impression make). You can still be friendly and funny if that’s your natural style – just use your best judgement, and when in doubt, go professional.
(2) Give Us Exact Details Beforehand
If we are meeting you for a one-on-one meeting, you’ll immediately start off on the right foot by choosing a public place. Give us as many details in advance as you can – time, addresses, your car licence plate number, colour and model…
Unfortunately, too many sinister situations have happened in the past that we women get it drilled in us from a very young age to tell our loved ones these details before we go out, in case anything happens to us.
The fact that you’re a potential collaborator/business partner who offers to meet at the local coffee shop in daylight (as opposed to your apartment at night) already shows that you know how scary the world can be sometimes.
(3) Put Plastic Bags In Your Garbage Bins
If you own a venue or are working a music festival, this is a very simple way to show you understand working with women. It’s easy to tell if a women is working onsite, because they make sure there is a plastic garbage bag in the wastepaper basket in the backstage bathroom.
Don’t let that be the detail that inadvertently shows off your staff equal opportunity employment success rate, train everyone to put plastic bags in bathroom garbage bins.
(4) Value Qualifications Over Token Representation
Speaking of equal opportunity employment, a common misconception is women want everything to be equal, all the time, regardless of the quality it gives.
For example, take music conference panels. If you have a panel of four industry professionals, we would rather see three qualified men and one qualifies woman than a 50/50 split where the second woman is embarrassingly out of her field of expertise, and is clearly only there for token equality numbers. We paid for our conference pass to get quality information and insights, regardless of the gender of who offers them.
In other words, a perfect equal split doesn’t always reflect real world numbers and life events. There are significantly more men in professional audio than women. An illustrious female speaker might cancel due to an unforeseen emergency. Never let token percentages matter more than the value these people are sharing.
(5) Call Out Sexist Behaviour
Easier said than done, I know. Contrary to viral internet videos, we’re not asking you to go all Social Justice Hulk on your bros. A well-meaning “hey man, you really don’t need to be commenting on the new manager’s body” means a lot to us.
(6) Compliment Actions
While on the subject of commenting on bodies, just don’t (“nice ass!” = bad idea).
If you are a sweetheart of a guy who is really impressed with a woman in the industry and wants to compliment them, do it on something within their control, such as a recent accomplishment (EP release, book launch), the way they solved a problem (dealing with malfunctioning equipment during the show), or anything they dedicated themselves to be good at (guitar shredding, work ethic).
(7) Give Us A Chance To Speak
Soft spoken does not mean unsure, stupid or uncaring. In our society, girls are conditioned from day one to be gentle, calm, and “ladylike.” That’s why school teachers can easily intervene when guys are bullying each other (“shove him in the locker” vs. “you can’t sit with us”) or spot learning disabilities in boys early on (Mikey screams and runs around vs. Kayla just daydreams out the window).
Loud confidence is attention grabbing, and that is a trait that often gets rewarded in boys, but disciplined in girls (“leadership qualities” vs. “bossy attitude”). As a result, by the time many women enter adulthood, we have been trained to speak softly, and use less powerful turns of phrase to not hurt feelings and stay calm and gentle. The downside is, a loud, confident, (borderline obnoxious) kid can easily talk over us and derail the conversation from something that might have been of value.
You can help in these situations by encouraging everyone to take turns/raise hands during meetings, or asking us to continue our train of thought after things quiet down again.
(8) Recommend Female Professionals
We may be in smaller numbers, but make a habit of suggesting women professionals if they would be a good fit for someone’s project. Whether a close colleague is looking for an event speaker, graphic designer, opening act or management firm, if someone would be a perfect addition to the team, recommend them!
(9) Be Sensitive When It Comes To Sexual Assault.
According to the World Health Organization, a third of all women experience sexual assault in their lifetime. It’s probably a safe assumption that at least one close friend or colleague has, and therefore knows what she’s talking about. If a female colleague straight up tells you that a dark joke was insensitive or hurtful, don’t try to justify it, just apologize and let it go.
Men are victims too, and we’re also here for you.
(10) Be A Decent Person.
It’s easier for people to issue you have good intentions if you live a good, honest life. Super simple. The tips in this article aren’t rocket science, but how can you be expected to know these things if no one has ever told you?
Please consider sending this article to other, equally awesome men in the music business. Now, go be awesome!