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30 August 2017

Stepping Aside: Gender equality and privilege in recent Australian music culture

Keynote speech at the Women in Creative Arts conference, Canberra 2017

Keynote speaker Cat Hope (right) in Canberra with fellow sound artist Vanessa Tomlinson Image: Keynote speaker Cat Hope (right) in Canberra with fellow sound artist Vanessa Tomlinson  
© William Hall Photography

The inaugural Women in the Creative Arts conference took place at the School of Music at the Australian National University on 10-12 August - three engaging and vibrant days of research presentations, highlighting the creative work of women. The conference was attended by over 100 delegates, including 11 international attendees, and featured 60 events: 47 papers, four recitals, five keynote talks, three panels and one general meeting. A conference highlight was a recital on 11 August by The Muses Trio, presenting seven new works by women composers from across the globe, including three new Australian works by Hilary Kleinig, Nicole Murphy and Christine McCombe. The conference was initiated and directed by Dr Natalie Williams, Lecturer at the School of Music, Australian National University - Monash University is considering hosting the next conference in 2018.

Composer, sound artist and Head of Music at Monash University, Professor Cat Hope, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference - an excerpt of her keynote presentation is published here, and a more detailed version, as well as other articles from the conference, will be released in a scholarly volume to be announced soon. You can read the keynote speech by her colleague, composer, Professor Liza Lim on Liza's website.


Gender is a hot topic in Australia right now. Issues such as domestic violence, the gender pay gap, equal participation, the housing market and even the US elections have brought about considerable debates where the impact on women is being highlighted. In 2016, Australia was ranked 46th (of 144) on the World Economic Forum's global index measuring gender equality, slipping from a high point of 15th in 2006. Women are those most effected by homelessness - mostly driven there by domestic violence, abortion is still criminalised in New South Wales and Queensland, the gender pay gap for full-time women employees is just over 23% this year, and men currently have, on average, more than twice as much superannuation as women on retirement. We have deep, systemic problems with women's rights in Australia, and, for this reason, I will use this presentation to focus on what is happening here.

Women in the Creative Arts conference participants in a group photo
© William Hall Photography

I came late to an interest in this topic. I have been a working musician since I graduated from the university in 1989, where I had trained to be a flute player that preferred new music. I began composing, first as a songwriter in 1990, winding through bands, then into improvisation, electronic and noise music, then notated art music from around 2008. I began my academic career in 2004 when my second child was three weeks old. I didn't come to the subject of women's opportunities because I felt I wasn't getting my fair share of the pie in any of these fields. The point of all this background is that I had never felt that things were more difficult for me than anyone else. In some fields, such as noise music, I felt people sought me out because I was a woman. I felt that my generation was the one that had benefitted from the fights of the women before me, having forged the path I was treading.

But that was before the first female Australian prime minister began her work. During Julia Gillard's term I, and many other women, watched on with disbelief. Maybe that path hadn't been forged after all, or, maybe, it was still too early to walk it. The way Gillard was talked to, and talked about, shocked me, and I started to look at my own world, music, with different eyes. This is how I got to this point.

I have no training in gender theory or the reading of quantitative data, as may be evident in this paper, and I didn't really want or plan to be a women's advocate. I am a fortunate artist, because I have gainful, full-time employment in my field. I have experienced the world without that. And, with that gainfully employed position, comes a certain responsibility towards others who don't. This presentation is for them.

Anne Summers, the author of the seminal book Dammed Whores and God's Police (1975), created a women's manifesto on International Women's Day this year, outlining a vision for women in Australia. It includes immediate, practical reforms to be put in place by 2022, including four basic principles of women's equality: financial self-sufficiency, reproductive freedom, freedom from violence and the right to participate fully and equally in all areas of public life1. The focus of my presentation will be on the last of these principles, full and equal participation in the music industry and the education that leads us to that. I think these principles fold together - full participation leads to financial self-sufficiency and can contribute to the other principles laid out by Summers.

Participation has been targeted in music by some new Australian-specific data recently released. A report commissioned by APRA AMCOS, undertaken by Drs Catherine Strong and Fabian Cannizzo of RMIT University and entitled Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, was released in August 2017. Just a little earlier, Sydney University's Business School released a report, requested by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and addressing contemporary popular music. The executive summary in this report by Rae Cooper, Amanda Coles and Sue Hanna-Osborne, entitled Skipping A Beat: Assessing the State of Gender Equality in the Australian Music Industry, points out that:

'Even less recognition and power is afforded to minority groups of women such as First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse women, women with disabilities, and those identifying as LGBTQI'.2

You will notice I have 'gender equality' in the title of this keynote - this is a deliberate choice of words, because, whilst most of the data I will present to you focuses on men and women, this discussion is intended to highlight the lack of diversity in the opportunities for our broader community more generally. As our concept of gender becomes more fluid, it is important that discussion around men and women enlarges into a more general debate that includes non-gender confirming people, as well as different cultural or social economic groups. We need to challenge what Carolyn D'Cruz calls a 'rigid binary system of male and female gender classification'.3

Neither of the aforementioned reports, or past reports I cite, delve into this more detailed demographic, and they also focus on more financially lucrative music practices - film and popular music. In researching this presentation, I looked for other reports, and - aside from some work commissioned by the Australia Council on the involvement in the arts more generally - I found little information relevant to Australia from outside these styles of music. There are a number of research articles but few surveys providing broad data for the Australian situation. The National Opera Review released in 2016 didn't even include the words 'woman' or 'women' in it.

Now I am going to warn you - there will be a lot of percentage talk in this paper. But given the climate is such that many men and women continue to deny there is any issue, evidence is required. I will be using information gathered from commissioned industry reports, commissioned government body reports, research papers, press articles, unpublished surveys and conversations. I can say right up front that a more comprehensive report providing data around women's activity in the music industry, across all styles and roles, is needed for the Australian context. It seems likely there are a large range of factors at play here, factors that drive imbalances that may differ between different music genres. These imbalances are often complicated by other contributing factors, including age, race, education and - the one we really struggle with in Australia - privilege. As Tim Winton points out, class is the other 'c' word.

Merit and privilege

Given the recent debates generated around 18C, the section dedicated to hate speech in the Racial Discrimination Act in Australia, discussion about what free speech actually means has been front and centre. What quickly became apparent is that, whilst a democratic nation such as Australia should rely on free speech to provide people with the information they need to govern themselves and hold their representatives accountable, free speech was not available to everyone. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 19 kinds has three points, of which the first states, 'Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference'.

That is, unless you are Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and you post a comment on Facebook, on Anzac Day, that says 'lest we forget Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine'. She nearly lost her job as a result. Would a white, cisgender male have received the same backlash? It seems freedom of speech is technically available to everyone, but actually only permitted, or approved to be coming from, a select, privileged few. Those few rarely include women, especially not women of colouur, and definitely not Muslim women.

US academic and feminist Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay, in 1988, entitled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack that brought the term 'white privilege' into social discourse. Privilege can be defined as a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. In her paper, McIntosh listed 40 statements that would show what it would be like if white privilege didn't exist, and added 8 that applied more specially to being a woman. This list has been added to and modified to highlight how privilege is not just about race, but rather a series of interrelated hierarchies and power dynamics that touch on all facets of social life - race, class, sexual orientation, religion, education, age, physical ability and of course, gender. McIntosh notes that privilege is deeply enculturated, so that most of those who have it, are oblivious to it.4

As the social strata in Australia continues to polarise, with the gap between rich and poor continuing to widen5, privilege becomes even more enculturated, perhaps explaining both the lack of women in powerful positions but also how our renewed interest in the topic has come about. Following on from this, is the 'myth of meritocracy'. Australia has a particular way of aligning merit with fairness, equality or objectivity. As Jennifer Whelan points out, discrimination is integral to meritocratic system:

'A merit-based system "discriminates" on the basis of how much "merit" a person has - assuming the pre-condition that everyone has equal opportunity to acquire it - and favours those who have more of it. Or more precisely, are perceived to have more of it.'6

Merit implies that everyone has equal access to acquiring the said merit. And merit needs to be measured. As I will go on to show, most women, despite how well educated they are, remain under-represented in virtually every professional sphere. And in organisations that emphasise merit as a selection and performance appraisal tool, men were more likely to succeed. Does that mean that men are just more meritorious than women? No - it is more likely that this is an example of unconscious bias, reinforcing stereotypes where men are seen to be more competent than women.

It is interesting to note that some of the earliest practical settings used to test the measure of merit and merit alone, have been undertaken through blind auditions for orchestras, and, later, in the selection of films. Research by Cecilia Rouse and Claudio Goldin found, in 1997, that women's representation went from 10% to 45% of new hires at the New York Philharmonic after blind auditions were introduced7. Likewise, the Tropfest St Kilda film festival saw an increase in the inclusion of women from 5 to 50% after the removal of identifying details of film makers in the preliminary rounds8. Interestingly, the Western Australian and Victorian public service are currently trialling anonymous recruitment.

It seems current data shows us that unconscious bias, gender stereotypes and systemic privilege exist in the Australian workforce. The popular music industry has demonstrated capacity to acknowledge the issues and commission reports with the intent of finding better data to inform actions that will improve opportunities for women in our industry. But classical music and jazz are yet to act, despite a growing body of research and publications around these issues in both music genres. But does all music form part of the 'music industry'?

Women in music versus women making income from music: some recent reports

APRA AMCOS membership data shows that only 21.7% of their members identify as female. Following on from this, the percentage of royalty payments the organisation has made to female members has fluctuated between 15% and 21% between 2007 and 2016.9 To their credit, APRA AMCOS have reacted quickly to the report they commissioned, by setting a goal to increase female membership by 25% over three years (that brings it up to around 28%), implementing what they call 'strict 40% female participation measures', establishing mentorship programs and encouraging a 'whole of industry call to action' around gender parity10. I look forward to seeing how these initiatives unfold. Other organisations, including ABC radio and the Australian Music Centre, have upheld a grassroots approach to gender parity for some time, taking active measures to include women in their programming and membership respectively. This has included seeking out more women and making a focused attempt to ensure a gender balance in their activities. However, the impact of APRA's actions has a different significance, as their core business is royalty collection, and they have the capacity to increase the amount of revenue women obtain from their music practice, from recordings, airplay, streaming and live performances. So any changes they make to their membership will increase the amount of money distributed to female artists, and, of course, to the agency's own income.

But unfortunately, data collected in the Skipping a Beat report shows only 31% of the 100 most played songs on commercial radio were a female act or an act with a female lead. Similarly, Triple J featured 71% of music by all-male or solo male artists in 2017, up from 61% in 2016. Streaming service Spotify reported that 21 of their top 100 artists are female, with none in the top 10. Yet music vendor iTunes 'best of 2016' featured 57% acts with a female lead, solo artists or female member. This raises interesting questions about these different methods of music distribution and the impact they have on whether or not we choose music that features women, and how (and if) that music is marketed to consumers.11

The Sydney University study, undertaken in the first half of 2017, was commissioned with the intent, I would assume, of benefiting the current and future members of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. The report highlights the fact that the gender pay gap is particularity acute in the creative arts, finding that the disparity in earnings had changed little from 2003, when Throsby and Hollister's Australia Council-commissioned survey of Australian artists found that men's median income was 106% higher than women's12. Interestingly dubbed an 'exploratory' report by its authors, it mines publicly available data, whereas the report commissioned by APRA AMCOS uses interviews with practitioners.

Data gathered by international organisations such as Female Pressure have shown us that, in electronic music internationally, women do not feature significantly on festival lineups. The Skipping a Beat report points out that two of the largest Australian music festivals had significant gender imbalances in 2016: Splendour in the Grass had 74% male-only acts and Groovin The Moo had 79% male-only acts13. Two other prominent festivals, Days Like This and Spilt Milk, had no female acts whatsoever last year. Spilt Milk did, however, use the subsequent criticism to inform a decision to change its practices, announced at a 2016 roundtable on the issue of women in music, conducted by Music NSW. This particular example demonstrates the effectiveness of lobbying, but also the need for education around these issues and their importance.

Music Victoria released a discussion paper 'Women in the Victorian Contemporary Music Industry' in 2015, which highlighted that only a quarter of their respondents earned all their income from their employment in the music industry, and within that industry they held multiple roles across administration and creative activity. 42% of their respondents said they used volunteering as a way to further their career14. They highlight that the casualisation of work in the music industry, mixed with lower pay, impacts women strongly in financial terms.

Points of view and perception versus data

A continually recurring issue is a lack of acknowledgement, by men as well as women, that difficulties for women in the music industry exist. As it was in my case, an individual's personal experience can inform their belief. For others, it can be a simple lack of interest, inability to see the relevance, or reluctance to be spoken for. Occasionally, members of the music community lash out with comments such as 'if you are good enough, you'll get by' (actual comment to me made by senior female sound artist) or 'it's hard for everyone, not just women' (actual comment to me, made by senior male jazz artist). But it seems the data is starting to speak on our behalf.

In screen composition, women were far more likely than men to believe that their gender had a negative effect on their careers (50% of women vs 1% of men). Women were also far more likely to agree that it took longer for them to establish their career because of their gender (30% vs 1%), that they found it harder to get jobs because of their gender (31% vs 1%) and that they were treated differently because of their gender (48% vs 7%). So, importantly, men perceived the industry as being much less gender-biased than women did. Only 14% of men said they knew of any instances of gender discrimination against people other than themselves in the industry, compared to 40% of women saying they had.15

An interesting point in this report is what the authors call a 'mirror imaging' of male and female responses, where an equal number of men agree to something that the same number of women disagree to. Strong & Cannizzo explain this as either men being unaware of something, or not calling it by the same name - for example, in the case of sexual harassment, where 36% of male respondents disagreed with the statement 'Sexual harassment is common in the industry' and 36% of women agreed, it is likely that what men and women consider to be sexual harassment varies according to their gender.16

Similar issues around perception are also present in the education space. An informal review by a new national student-led group supporting women in jazz, All In, found students reporting that their lecturers did not always support their view that establishing a career in jazz was more difficult for women, devaluing their experience. This is compounded by the issue that many music schools have few women - sometimes none - in their jazz faculty, meaning students experience a disconnect between their university experience and the community they will work in together with their tutors.

Figures provided by the Australia Council in 2012 state that 32% of all musicians working in Australia are women, and 27% of all composers working in Australia are women. Yet concert programs don't reflect even this depressingly unbalanced situation; they are overwhelming dominated by men. This is not a perception, but a fact - music written by women is not featured widely in performances of any musical genre. In 2013, only 11% of the works in Australian new art music concerts featured works by women, for example17. The data used to provide this figure is problematic, however, as it is usually only available by trawling through organisations' websites and marketing materials, which they are under no obligation to maintain and keep accessible.

It would seem that many people in the industry do not wish to discuss, address or acknowledge the issue. Disturbingly, many respondents in the APRA AMCOS-commissioned study noted that sexist attitudes had not so much disappeared from the screen industry, as had become more covert18. This is a worrying trend as it symbolises a resistance to change, where some men may be seeking refuge in groups of like-minded individuals. As John Whiteoak points out in his study of brass bands and popular music in Australia during the 1920s, many men sought fellowship in music activity, where 'the male fellowship and the often risqué jokes, anecdote-telling, sport talk, social drinking, and occasional pranks are, for many, as important a reason as any other for remaining band musicians'19. Perhaps men are seeking something similar in the current climate.

Women in positions of power, and being recognised for excellence.

Men's fellowship can be found at the very high level of industry representation. Carol Schwartz, board member of the Reserve Bank and a tireless women's advocate, has noted that more people are called Peter, David or John than there are women on boards in Australia. The fact that cisgender, white, able-bodied men aged 40-69 years represent the majority of Australian board leadership, and this subset of people only make up only 8.4% of the actual population, makes this statistic even more alarming. Likewise, ABC's Radio's Hack program found that only 35% of board members on peak music bodies are women21.

These figures are actually reasonably healthy compared to other areas, however they do not accurately reflect the state of play 'on the ground', where women are working in many different facets of the industry. According to Music Victoria, women are well represented in junior roles in key music industry bodies, at 58%, but hold only 28% of senior and strategic roles. For example, of 120 independent Australian record labels registered with Australian Independent Record Labels Association AIR, 80% of record managers are male22 and the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) and AIR organisations currently have no female board members23. It seems clear from this data that men dominate the major decision-making structures of the popular music industry, and this must have an impact on the way decisions are formed and delivered.

Mentoring and role models

Together with my colleagues Professor Dawn Bennett (Curtin University), Associate Professor Sally Macarthur (Western Sydney University), Dr Sophie Hennekam (La Rochelle Business School, France) and Talisha Goh from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University, I have been undertaking research into the experience of women composers around the world. 'International Study of Women Composers' consisted of a three-part online survey of 225 composers and 28 detailed one-on-one interviews undertaken in 2016 and 2017. The study found that many women composers felt a lack of support from other women, with many not being able to identify a mentor in their early career. In addition, the Music Victoria report noted that, of the women musicians and composers they surveyed, 60% wanted more mentoring than they had access to24. But the 'International Study of Women Composers' revealed that many women seem to be finding a different kind of mentorship online, with a large percentage stating that they had found a large degree of support through social media groups such as Facebook.25

Another issue raised by women working in music was that of confidence. This is hardly surprising when there are few role models, few women featured in the educational canon, and few women in concert programs and radio playlists. The Music Victoria report highlights this issue, in what they term a 'confidence gap'. It brings attention to important issue - the perception, held by fellow artists, that if one woman can make it, all women should be able to succeed. This then goes on to create the subsequent impression that if other women do not succeed, it is due to personal failings rather than anything systemic. This has the result of further demoralising individuals, especially those new to the industry in the rather vulnerable position of 'proving themselves.'

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sanders, in her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013), cites research from the Journal of Vocational Behavior that shows how men are more likely to mentor other men rather than women, as they see a younger version of themselves in their younger male counterparts26. This suggests that if more women were in senior roles, they would be more likely to mentor women their junior. However, an idea prevailing amongst many is that women will support other women - this is not by any means a given, and it's a dangerous assumption to make. There are many reasons why a woman may not see an imperative to support younger women in her field. Many feel that their gender has not hampered their career so see no need for it, some do not want to think about how their gender may have effected their career. Then there are those who never had support themselves for the challenges they faced in their career and carry a degree of bitterness around that. There are some who enjoy having been, or still being, the 'only woman in the room'.

Another easy assumption is that women know about what other women are doing or what they are interested in. Given that most women are surrounded by men, as evidenced by the statistics I shared earlier, it may be rather difficult for them to be aware of the activity of other women.


Approximately 50% of all music students in Australia are women27. I do believe things have improved since 2009, when Patricia Adkins Chiti was compelled to write: 'Women as creative artists are absent from encyclopaedias, are not mentioned in textbooks and are rarely encountered in school curricula'28.

However, the canon most music students are taught features little, if any, compositions by women. Performances of female composers' works are also likely to be rare in student recitals and staff performances. It also follows that if music schools are not educating all their students about women's work, the students are unlikely to expect to find any when they graduate and enter the profession.

Studies of music education in primary and secondary schooling suggest that the socialisation of future musicians into gendered music practices begins early on in life and develops alongside children's social identities29. Some musicians - many of these teachers - even believe certain instruments and careers are more suited to men than women. Drums, trombone and trumpet are seen as 'masculine', the flute, clarinet and violin as 'feminine'. There are few women jazz instrumentalists, a genre that commonly features the 'masculine' instruments above, and this low number could be explained by how this tendency plays out. It has been shown that primary and secondary schools perpetuate subtle definitions of femininity and masculinity as connotations of different musical practices and music styles, in which pupils invest their desires to conform30, a trait that tends to play out in jazz in particular. Many women working in jazz feel they need to be better than their male counterparts to get access to similar gig opportunities.

So, if 32% of musicians working in Australia are women, what happens to the other 20% of students studying music in our educational institutions? Some may of course go into other careers by choice or decide to devote themselves to family or other pursuits. It is also likely that the musicians working in Australia include a large number of artists who didn't undertake any tertiary education in music. But given that many will not 'see' themselves in a future career, not in the music they study, in teaching, or in concert programs out in the 'real world', they are already a step behind their male counterparts.

In the workplace - networking

The workplace of music varies considerably between genres. A sticky carpeted pub is quite different to a concert hall, a jazz club is different to a performance at a wedding ceremony. But sadly, sexual assault and harassment of women by men is an ongoing issue in popular and jazz music communities. The Skipping a Beat report noted multiple incidents of sexual assault at four different major rock music festivals this year and last31. A recent survey of young gig attendees in Melbourne showed just over 80% of respondents believed unwanted sexual attention as being common in licensed venues, and an even higher number saying they had seen it take place. This discovery led to a taskforce being set up by the Victorian government to address the issue directly.

The gendered nature of caring responsibilities sees many women drop out of the industry to raise children, with the Music Victoria report outlining how many believed that raising a family whilst undertaking a career in the music industry was incompatible32.

Both these issues create difficulty for the informal way most networking is undertaken. In jazz, many future opportunities are found and created at the post show 'hang' and, in the case of screen composition, the post-shoot drinking session33. Given the data around sexual harassment in music venues, it is not surprising women would not wish to network at music venues at the conclusion of a gig. This is compounded by statistics that show us 90% of women use informal networking as the lead strategy for career development34. It seems that like the mentoring I mentioned earlier, women are finding online networking a more rewarding, fruitful and, quite frankly, safe way to make contacts and seek opportunities.

Small revolutions

It is hard to be optimistic in the view of this data. The problem is evident at the highest levels of the industry; boards, education and politics. As such, some of the most promising activity is coming from younger, emergent artists and academics, who are making decisions and ensure that they curate, organise, teach and research in a way that is careful and considerate.

Everyone here at this conference is part of a resistance to these issues. The willingness to discuss the issues openly, or even just discuss women's music because it is interesting, is an important part of the possibility for change. This change is not borne on the sleeve, it is in steady, focused work where consultation is broad and new ideas are considered with a new frame of inclusion and openness. It is not bred from the master and apprentice model, it comes from a truly global, internet family that deserves financial and moral support.

This is a group that sees privilege for what it is, calls out discrimination when they see it, activates bystanders, supports those of like mind, challenges conventional authority and reads theory differently. These are people for whom the new world of work is not a challenge, but a reality. They are not fighting over scraps - the last CDs, royalties for downloads, the last magazine run, a sales window. They make their opportunities and invent the paths. It doesn't always work, but the importance is in the attempt.

There are many individuals and initiatives I could name here, too many for the scope of this paper. Yet there are some projects led by the generation on from mine that I will mention, because I am aware of their work, and because they began without the permission provided by a successful grant application or a big Pozible campaign. In the art music sphere, 'Making Waves', co-directed by Peggy Polias from Sydney and Lisa Cheney from Melbourne is a website that features podcasts focused on Australian composers from around the country, both men and women. Partial Durations, edited by Melbourne writer Mathew Lorenzon, is a website that shares reviews, articles and podcasts around a wide and diverse range of art music within Australia and further afield. Lorenzon is also embarking on research to track the progression of women students from university into their careers alongside like-minded researchers in Europe.

Perth's 'Tone List', a music label for exploratory music, is outwardly collaborative and inclusive, organising concerts, interviews and workshops of different kinds, and feeding into larger organisations in that state. 'All In', a newly formed national group of current and graduate jazz students from Australia, is promoting women in jazz music through positive reinforcement, support and community. 'Frontyard Projects' in Sydney is a community driven multi-arts centre looking at sustainable practices in the arts. 'Listen', a collective based in Melbourne, is using a feminist perspective to advocate for different points of view, focusing on people that consider themselves marginalised within Australian music. And I look forward to you all telling me about others.

A range of academics champion the work of women, including Vanessa Tomlinson, Sally Macarthur, Matthew Hindson, Margaret Kartomi, Dawn Bennett, Linda Kouvaras, Helen Rusak, Liza Lim, Margaret Barrett, Joel Crotty, Eve Klein, and others. Many are writing important books and articles, or supervising research projects that make a significant attempt to include a diverse range of editors and artists in material that covers surveys of composers, communities of practice, practitioners and theoretical approaches. Books are still important - they shape the canon, and perpetuate information about our culture through time. It remains more important than ever that they are developed by rigorous researchers who understand the nature of oral history, are consultative and fact-check. Some seminal examples in this area include Linda Kouvaras's Loading the silence: Australian sound art in the post-digital age (2013), Gail Priest's edited collection Experimental Music - audio explorations in Australia (2008) and a number of texts by Sally Macarthur, Vanessa Tomlinson, Dawn Bennett and early career researchers, as we will see at this conference.

The increasing popularity of practice-led and practice-based postgraduate degrees in music is opening up an avenue for articulating artists' perspectives. The exegetical documents created in these research projects are an important and valuable source of contextual information around process and intent. These degrees are also providing an additional income stream for some artists, through competitive three-year Federal Government scholarships. However, the recent budget saw a drop in the number of scholarships provided, and I think it is likely that these will only decrease.

Conclusions towards better opportunities

Given that music forms part of the daily routines of most Australians at work and during their leisure time - more people listen to music than exercise - issues of how society is represented in our music culture are important. Full participation in this cornerstone of our culture is essential if we truly uphold a society of equal opportunity and inclusivity. This participation can be driven by women themselves, but also requires male champions in positions of influence to insist on change. As Clementine Ford says,

'Equality comes from people either sacrificing their privilege or having it forcibly taken away from them. It does not come from waiting for the oppressed to rise up and meet it.'35

Some organisations are thinking, trailing and implementing different methods to make change - formal quotas with the aim of 'shocking' the system into a new frame, 'mindful' programming, where people making program decisions endeavour to just look harder and be conscious of the need for balance. There are new mentoring programs, commissioning funds and scholarships being offered in universities and music organisations across Australia.

The two recent reports I have focused on, the APRA/RMIT Screen Composers report and MEAA/Sydney University Skipping a beat report, have of course resulted in recommendations. In the former report, six recommendations are made: engage men in equity initiatives, create networking and partnership opportunities, spotlight female role models, help girls to engage with music technology and undertake ongoing research in women and music-making.36

The Skipping a Beat report, however, calls for the collection of more and better data on the music industry, establishment of a gender equality industry advocacy body, the use of gender equality criteria in deciding public funding outcomes, an increase in women in decision-making structures, addressing gender bias by prioritising inclusivity and representations as core industry values37. These are actions for industry. We also need action for individuals, things that each of us undertake. One by one we can support diversity and opportunity by challenging our assumptions and thinking carefully when we program a concert or gig, a festival, a radio program, a commission, a label's releases, a journal edition or a visiting artist in our school. When we design or modify a curriculum, choose a songwriter or form a new band. We need to work on the way we share information and provide options for people who may need to do things differently than others.

I propose there are three different categories of influence where the inclusion of women is important and requires different modes of intervention by us all.

The first of these is right at the top, where it seems that the place where the most issues exist in terms of representation and indeed, willingness to include representation, at the highest levels of industry. Despite endless statistics and reports generated by the business community, demonstrating the dearth of women at the most senior levels of decision making, the music industry has, overall, been slow to react. We need to lobby the institutions that claim to represent us, and make sure they do.

Secondly, there are many very good projects - administrative, collective and artistic - that are started by groups of independent individuals, then go on to partner with more established institutions. For example, Lorenzon's Partial Durations and its partnership with Realtime. These groups need our active endorsement and assistance to ensure they have the support to retain their opening gambit of being inclusive, easily accessible and not over-editorialised.

Finally, there are those just trying things out. Curating programs, making and performing new work, championing their friends and collaborators, forming collectives, interviewing those they respect, writing about each other, creating communities as alternatives to the status quo that may have never given them an opportunity to join. These individuals and groups need our participation and respect, they need space and time to evolve and experiment, permission to take risks as well as permission to fail. Perhaps they are the most important of all.

The world of music is fascinating and complex, as are all things driven by social interaction. With all the current interest in the topic, now is the time to move - to make changes where we can, whether it be to shock the system or to enter a conversation. The world of music will be better for it, for all of us.


1 Summers, Anne (2017) 'Women's Mainfesto - a blueprint for how to get equality for women in Australia'. First presented at the Australian Education Union (Victorian branch) International Women's Day dinner in Melbourne on 7 March 2017. http://annesummerspull.issimoholdingspt.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/TheWomensManifesto_pdffinal.pdf

2 Cooper, R, Coles, A & Hanna-Osborne, S (2017) Skipping A Beat - Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry. The University of Sydney Business School, 3. http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315275/Skipping-a-Beat_FINAL_210717.pdf

3 Stark, Jill (2015) 'Call yourself a woman? Feminists take on transgender community in bitter debate', The Sydney Morning Herald (22 November 2015). http://www.smh.com.au/national/what-makes-a-woman-feminists-take-on-transgender-community-in-bitter-debate-20151113-gkyk6u.html

4 McIntosh, Peggy (2010) 'White privilege and male privilege'. The teacher in American society: A critical anthology, 121.

5 Martin, John and Förster, Michael: (2013) Inequality in OECD countries: the facts and policies to curb it, Insights, Melbourne Business and Economics. https://insights.unimelb.edu.au/vol15/pdf/Martin.pdf (Martin & Förster 2013)

6 Whelan, Jennifer (2013) 'The myth of merit and unconscious bias', The Conversation (16 October 2013). https://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-merit-and-unconscious-bias-18876

7 Goldin, Claudia & Rouse, Cecilia (1997). Orchestrating impartiality: The impact of "blind" auditions on female musicians. National Bureau of Economic Research working paper No. w5903. http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903

8 Ball, Simone (2017). 'The Tropfest Redemption: Why It Matters That Half This Year's Finalists Are Women', Huffington Post (11 February 2017). http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/simone-ball/the-tropfest-redemption-why-it-matters-that-half-this-years-fi_a_21711111/

9 Strong, C. and Cannizzo, F. (2017) Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, RMIT, Melbourne, v

10 'APRA (2017) 'APRA AMCOS leads music industry toward gender parity, aims to double new female members within three years' (31 July 2017). http://apraamcos.com.au/news/2017/july/apra-amcos-leads-music-industry-toward-gender-parity-aims-to-double-new-female-members-within-three-years/

11 Cooper, R, Coles, A & Hanna-Osborne, S (2017) Skipping A Beat - Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry. The University of Sydney Business School, 6. http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315275/Skipping-a-Beat_FINAL_210717.pdf

12 Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14 Music Victoria (2015) Women in the Victorian Contemporary Music Industry, discussion paper, Music Victoria, 2-3. http://www.musicvictoria.com.au/assets/Women%20in%20the%20Victorian%20Contemporary%20Music%20Industry.pdf

15 Strong, C. and Cannizzo, F. (2017) Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, RMIT, Melbourne, vi

16 Ibid. 16

17 Macarthur, S. (2014). 'The woman composer, new music and neoliberalism', Musicology Australia, 36(1), 36-52.

18 Strong, C. and Cannizzo, F. (2017) Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, RMIT, Melbourne, 26

19 Whiteoak, John (2002) Popular Music, Militarism, Women, and the Early 'Brass Band' in Australia', Australasian Music Research No. 6, 2002: 27-48.

20 Liddy, Matt & Hanrahan, Catherine (2017) 'Fewer women run top Australian companies than men named John - or Peter, or David' ABC News (8 March 2017). http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-08/fewer-women-ceos-than-men-named-john/8327938

21 McCormack, Ange (2017) 'By the numbers: the gender gap in the Australian music industry', Triple J Hack (7 March 2017). http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/by-the-numbers-the-gender-gap-in-the-australian-music-industry/8328952

22 McCormack, Ange (2016) 'By the numbers: women in the music industry', Triple J Hack (14 March 2016). http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/girls-to-the-front/7223798

23 Cooper, R, Coles, A & Hanna-Osborne, S (2017) Skipping A Beat - Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry. The University of Sydney Business School, 9. http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315275/Skipping-a-Beat_FINAL_210717.pdf

24 Music Victoria (2015) Women in the Victorian Contemporary Music Industry, discussion paper, Music Victoria, 6. http://www.musicvictoria.com.au/assets/Women%20in%20the%20Victorian%20Contemporary%20Music%20Industry.pdf

25 Bennett, Macarthur et al. (2017). 'Inside the net: how women composers build and support their career online', Gender and the Creative Industries (forthcoming)

26 McSweeny, Ellen (2013) 'The Power List: why women aren't equals in new music leadership and innovation', NewMusicBox (10 April 2013). http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/the-power-list-why-women-arent-equals-in-new-music-leadership-and-innovation/

27 McCormack, Ange (2017) 'By the numbers: the gender gap in the Australian music industry', Triple J Hack (7 March 2017). http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/by-the-numbers-the-gender-gap-in-the-australian-music-industry/8328952

28 Adkins Chiti, Patricia (2003) 'Cultural Diversity-Musical Diversity: A Different Vision -Women Making Music', a paper presented a Many Musics Conference, Montevideo, International Music Council, 1-9. http://www.imc-cim.org/mmap/pdf/prod-chiti-e.pdf (2003)

29 Roulston and Misawa (2011) in Strong, C. and Cannizzo, F. (2017) Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, RMIT, Melbourne, 52

30 Green, Lucy (2002) Green, Lucy. 'Exposing the Gendered Discourse of Music Education', Feminism & Psychology 12.2, 142.

31 Cooper, R, Coles, A & Hanna-Osborne, S (2017) Skipping A Beat - Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry. The University of Sydney Business School, 7. http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315275/Skipping-a-Beat_FINAL_210717.pdf

32 Music Victoria (2015) Women in the Victorian Contemporary Music Industry, discussion paper, Music Victoria, 4. http://www.musicvictoria.com.au/assets/Women%20in%20the%20Victorian%20Contemporary%20Music%20Industry.pdf

33 Strong, C. and Cannizzo, F. (2017) Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, RMIT, Melbourne, 17

34 Music Victoria (2015) Women in the Victorian Contemporary Music Industry, discussion paper, Music Victoria, 7. http://www.musicvictoria.com.au/assets/Women%20in%20the%20Victorian%20Contemporary%20Music%20Industry.pdf

35 Ford, Clementine (2015) 'Equality means a loss to those in privilege, and that's okay', The Sydney Morning Herald (28 May 2015). http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/news-and-views/opinion/equality-means-a-loss-to-those-in-privilege-and-thats-okay-20150527-ghambb.html

36 Strong, C. and Cannizzo, F. (2017) Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways, RMIT, Melbourne, 57-59.

37 Cooper, R, Coles, A & Hanna-Osborne, S (2017) Skipping A Beat - Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry. The University of Sydney Business School, 2. http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315275/Skipping-a-Beat_FINAL_210717.pdf

Further links

Women in the Creative Arts conference info (http://music.anu.edu.au/news/women-creative-arts)


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