Research Project

Proposal
I am investigating why there are significantly less female sound engineers than male, and how it is likely to affect my future in the industry.
This issue was brought to my attention when I started education in the field. I am the only female in the class and am being taught by all male teachers, I consulted a few of my teachers about it and they clarified that it was not purely a coincidence but in fact very common for there to be little to no women learning the subject. I know that I can’t just take their words for it, but in fact have to investigate further.
I want to find out things such as whether sexism plays a role, whether women’s very restricted access to the creative industries many years ago contributes, and if the lack of women will affect the few that there are positively or negatively.

I’m going to demonstrate both examples of primary and secondary research, using methods such as; taking surveys, watching documentaries, searching online, interviewing people currently working in the industry and studying books about women in the industry, and technical books written by women.

By the end of this project I am hoping that I will be able to display both factual and opinionated information; such as statistics and quotes.

With such a diverse topic, unfortunately there can never be a definite answer. But at least a clearer theory and understanding can be gathered.

Internet sites:
Women in Audio ‘YES WE EXIST!’ by April Tucker
‘We want to be recognized for our work, not our gender’
‘On an interview, I was offered a tour of the facility. When I was introduced to the operations manager, he asked, “Are you a producer or a post-production supervisor?” It didn’t cross his mind I could be an audio person, let alone interviewing for a high-level mixing position’.
‘One studio had an annual company-sponsored trip to Vegas for the audio guys. After I was hired, they stopped doing it. Someone privately told me they decided it wasn’t appropriate for me to go when their wives/girlfriends weren’t invited. It made me feel pretty alienated from the team, but I also saw resentment from some guys that it was my fault.’
‘I worked at another studio that had a divided male/female climate; women did operations and client services, and men did editing and mixing. As much as I tried to fit in, I felt like a black sheep, never quite finding my place in either group’
‘April has a M.Mus (Sound Recording) from McGill University, and a B.Mus (Music Production & Technology) from the University of Hartford. She is currently a re-recording mixer and “audio adventurist,” taking on side gigs from sound editorial to score mixing, and occasionally still breaking software… for fun.’

Why are Female Producers So Rare? by Mark Savage
‘…only three women have ever been nominated for best producer at the Brits or the Grammys. None of them went home with the prize’
‘Recording artist Regina Spektor, promoting her album Far in 2009, admitted to the BBC she had “never even seen the names” of female producers on her record company shortlist.’
‘”It is a sad case,” says Steve Levine, chairman of the UK’s Music Producer’s Guild. “I’ve only ever worked with one female studio engineer.”‘
‘Trina Shoemaker became an apprentice to Daniel Lanois, who helped shape the sound of U2 and Brian Eno, and, in 1998, was the first woman to win a Grammy for sound engineering.’
‘”It’s a renegade profession, it’s an outlaw profession,” says Susan Rogers – one-time studio engineer for Prince, and now an associate professor at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston.’
‘Women who want to enter the field face “a boys’ club, or a guild mentality”, Trina Shoemaker
‘Sexism may be one factor, but Prof Rogers believes the problem is more basic.

“The bottom line is, women aren’t interested,” she says.

“Right now, I currently teach engineering and production; and I also teach psychoacoustics and music cognition. In the psychology topics, the students are half women and half men. But in production and engineering, maybe one out of every 10 students is a young woman.”
Cordell Jackson founded her own record label, Moon Records, in 1956, and produced early rock’n’roll singles
Sylvia Robinson produced hip-hop classic Rapper’s Delight, for her own Sugarhill record label
Susan Rogers was the engineer on Prince’s biggest albums, including Purple Rain and Sign O The Times. She also worked with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Barenaked Ladies
Leanne UngerProduced and engineered seven albums for Leonard Cohen, and scores for TV shows such as The Wonder Years
Sally “Louder” Browder emerged from the California punk scene to make records with Rocket From The Crypt and Dwight Yokam
Trina Shoemaker, winner of three Grammys, best known for her work with Sheryl Crow, Queens Of The Stone Age and Emmylou Harris
Ann Mincieli recording engineer and studio designer for Alicia Keys

In the UK the situation is the same. The Music Producers’ Guild says less than 4% of its members are women. And the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts says only 6% of the students enrolled on its sound technology course are female. That figure hasn’t changed for three years.
‘in radio there are dozens of female sound engineers. Roughly one-quarter of the BBC’s sound mixers are women.’
“There are no social barriers to a woman becoming a record producer,” says Prof Rogers.
“The last thing I want to see – because I have seen it – is to get young women into the programme who are less dedicated, less motivated and less capable of being good producers. All it does is make things worse for us. They do poorly, they’re apathetic, they’re not interested and it furthers the stereotype that women can’t do this.”
“They’re much more sensitive to the delicacies of sound balancing. I think that’s quite an important role.”

Meet The Woman Who Has Been Pearl Jam’s Sound Engineer for 24 Years by Caroline Losneck
‘It’s rare for sound engineers to stay with a band as long as Keyes has — and it’s stillrare for sound engineers to be women. That’s why a few years ago, Keyes co-founded SoundGirls, a group that supports and mentors women in professional audio. This summer, SoundGirls held camps to teach young women live sound’

 

Structure Plan:

Proposal

Bias in modern day studios (personal and researched)

Statistics

Why are there no women in the industry?
Reference debate
Reference Survey conducted

Recent change for the better or worse in the industry
Future of women in the industry and what to look for
Reference ‘SoundGirls’

The impact few women in the industry has on the few that there are.

Conclusion

Tech’s Interview:
“The industry is getting better for women, we are a part of the change”
“We used to have a women work here with us, and when I hired her other teachers congratulated me and told me ‘bravo, do you know how many boxes you’ve ticked’ but in studios there aren’t as many boxes to tick.”
“The industry is incredibly difficult to get into anyway, no matter of your gender… We personally hire people on their knowledge and experience”
“People applying for the job hand in the application form, we have no knowledge of their gender as it isn’t important to us”
“In the least sexist way possible, I find its always nicer there being a women working in the studios, they tend to be a lot more precise with their work… and set a good example for some of the more careless men, they just improve the work environment.”
“I don’t know why women don’t consider sound engineering, whether women aren’t interested in it or think they can’t do it”
“If you went to the hair and beauty department, you’d find it in reverse… there would be near to no men.”

 

 

Final Essay:

I am investigating why there are significantly less female sound engineers than male, and how it is likely to affect my future in the industry.

This issue was brought to my attention when I started education in the field. I am the only female in the class and am being taught by all male teachers, I consulted a few of my teachers about it and they clarified that it was not purely a coincidence but in fact very common for there to be little to no women learning the subject. I know that I can’t just take their words for it, but in fact have to investigate further.

I want to find out things such as whether sexism plays a role, whether women’s very restricted access to the creative industries many years ago contributes, and if the lack of women will affect the few that there are positively or negatively.

Unfortunately however with such a diverse topic, there can never be a definite answer. But at least a clearer theory and understanding can be gathered.

I spoke to a range of sources throughout my research, I spoke to both males and females and a range of people currently working or studying as a sound engineer.
I studied the work of Karrie Keyes, Professor Rodgers and various other people who have there own theories as to why women aren’t involved in sound engineering.

I have personally experienced some gender bias in the industry, in fact my old school presumed I made a mistake by choosing the Music Technology course, so put me in the Performance course instead.
Last year when I uploaded a video on Youtube of me mic’ing up a drum kit, I received a lot of criticism for wearing a skirt.
People are constantly presuming I’m a performer, and when I tell them I’m not they tend to raise their eyebrows.
Will this be something I’ll just have to get used to or is there progress being made?
“There has always been a general undercurrent of sexism in all traditionally male-dominated industries, especially technical occupations. An unfortunate result of this is lost talent.” Steve Albini, longtime recording engineer and owner of Electrical Audio in Chicago.
Trina Shoemaker states in a BBC interview about her work “A producer has to turn into the person that fits in with the band. If they’re a bunch of guys and they’re young and they’re funny and they tell rude jokes, you have to be a woman who isn’t shocked by that and can, as a matter of fact, crush them all with three words.”I also can relate this to my own experiences in education and the industry itself.
Another big issue is that women aren’t always being credited for their work, in fact sometimes their husbands or even fathers get a bigger mention than they do.
Emily Lazar, the first female producer to be nominated in the Record Of The Year category said “I went into an audiophile stereo type of store to buy some speakers, converters, equipment for the studio for listening. Again I walked in and approached these guys, and they were like, ‘You’ve gotta be shopping for someone, like your boyfriend, your husband.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m an engineer, I’m shopping for my studio.’ They’re looking at me like I’m insane.’”

Before I investigate why there aren’t many women in the industry, I want to find out just how few there are and in which areas specifically. Here are some things I discovered:
Less than 5% of music producers and engineers are female.
Only six women have ever been nominated for best producer at the ‘Brit awards’ or ‘Grammys’ and none of them won.
94% of people who buy high-fidelity audio equipment are men.
The Music Producers’ Guild says less than 4% of its members are women.
The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts says only 6% of the students enrolled on its sound technology course are female. That figure hasn’t changed for three years.

At my college at the moment:
DJ course – 0/16 students are female
First year Music Technology – 4/36
Second year Music Technology – 4/50

Yet doing the performance courses:
First year – 21/48
Second Year – 4/12

There are lots of unjustified statistics, with no supporting causes or effects. I gathered together a range of people’s hypothesises to see how they attempt to justify the absence of women in sound engineering, and if there is a correlation between them.
From the evidence I gathered, it seems clear that people either think it is down to the fault of the women themselves, or that society is to blame.

Sound design and engineering has been referred to as a ‘boy’s club’ in numerous occasions through my research.
LA Weekly says ““A career in music production means a lot of 14 hour days in a dark studio with little outside contact. Women can find it hard to meet new people in that type of environment, and most eventually gravitate into fields that allow them to grow socially,” but surely this would be the case regardless of someones gender.
KK Proffitt, owner and chief engineer at JamSync, a small studio in Nashville, says “The imbalanced gender dichotomy can be intimidating for women, especially when it gives men carte blanche to act unprofessionally.” This relates back to what Trina Shoemaker said, that a particularly feminine and girly women would stand out in such a masculine environment. So this could potentially be deterring them from the scene.
In relation to this hypothesis I carried out a survey amongst the few females studying a music technology or live sound course and a few from other colleges that I knew personally. I asked ‘Would you consider yourself to be more masculine or feminine’ and 8 out of the 9 participants claim to be more on the masculine side.
Overall this hypothesis does seem like it could be a potential cause, however I see myself as more feminine and this theory does not support that. Also there is a chance that the industry itself has had an impact on their views of themselves, conformity has to be taken into consideration.
“It’s very much a bro society,” said Juliana Armbrust, who has mixed bands at Pitchfork Music Festival for the past seven years.

Emily Lazar has a strong opinion that the absence of women is due to gender stereotyping “Unfortunately most women are not trained to be — I don’t want to say trained — but they’re not in an environment that’s conducive to exploring that stuff,” This is saying that in the same way as boys wear blue and girls wear pink as infants, boys are given toy trucks and plastic tools to play with, and girls are given barbie dolls and make-up to play with. We get raised believing that anything technological or physically demanding is a man’s job.
This (just like the previous hypothesis) could be a plausible cause for women not pursuing the technic al sides of the music industries. This is what we can hope, because as society develops more and more children are being raised as gender neutral which would therefor increase the women in the field.
“I think the most insulting line I’ve heard come from a male producer is this: “Women know nothing about rock & roll.”” Rosina Ncube

Through survey I found out that some women just don’t think they’re smart enough, and some don’t even consider it as an option. Women aren’t being educated on the subject as much as they probably should be.
Juliana Armbrust, Karrie Keyes, Linda Perry and Emily Lazar all were self taught. Even if this isn’t the cause of the problem, it could potentially be the solution.
Karrie Keyes (live sound technician for Pearl Jam) has started this change, she is the owner and founder of ‘SoundGirls’ which teaches and offers young girls the experience they need to get a career in live sound. The site has grown massively since being founded in 2013, but why has it taken so long for women to be offered the opportunity and this is only live sound. Hopefully over the next few years we will see more women in the industry and more opportunities for women to pursue and be educated on the industry.

What does the absence of women at the moment becoming sound engineers mean for me?

A lot of hard work and a lot of raised eyebrows, but it might be the very thing that fuels my passion and success.
A lot of these women claim that the shock factors and pressure to live up to ‘male expectations’ drove them on to become the successful producers and engineers they are today.
I want to flaunt my gender and academic field, and let everyone know that I know just as much or more than all the men that surround me. That I may wear a dress around the studio but that in no way makes me less capable than a man.
After speaking to the technicians that work at college, they however said that even though they’d never hire someone depending on their gender, after the last women they hired, got applauded for “ticking so many boxes” which might mean an employer could hire me if they desperately needed to “tick those boxes.”
As April Tucker truly stated, “We want to be recognised for our work, not our gender”

 

Evidence
http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/ct-recording-engineers-0924-20150923-story.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19284058

http://www.npr.org/2016/09/04/492433224/meet-the-woman-whos-been-pearl-jams-sound-engineer-for-24-years

http://designingsound.org/2015/03/women-in-audio-yes-we-exist/

http://www.soundgirls.org

http://www.soundonsound.com/people/sounding-why-so-few-women-audio

https://youtu.be/X07kbZa6Amg

Books:
‘Women, Music , Culture’ by Julie C. Dunbar,

‘Women in music’ by Unknown Author

 

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

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