5 things we learnt at Twitter & AWMA’s #SetTheStandard gender diversity panel
Looking out on the crowd at Twitter Sydney’s office there was nary a more heartwarming sight. A sea of diverse, professional women ready to talk and more importantly, ready to listen to how we can #SetTheStandard for all women and gender diverse people within music.
The panel was in collaboration with the Australian Women In Music Awards (AWMAs), the upcoming Aussie first that recognises the excellence of women in our community.
So, fittingly, it featured AWMAs’ founder Vicki Gordon alongside musician Montaigne, hip hop artist Kween G, Junkee music writer Jules LeFevre and Twitter’s director of content partnerships, Japan and Asia Pacific, Jennie Sager.
Equality within the music industry is a topic that is trotted out so often as easy clickbait controversy that it’s easy to feel like progress is not being made.
Events like #SetTheStandard are essential to remind the community that the fire is still very much roaring.
Here are the top five things we took away from last night’s panel.
The time is now
In a time where for every #MeToo cry is amplified by social media, Gordon confirmed that now is the time to push for change.
“We are in a place where women are able to have a voice, are able to have a presence and for the first time in a long, long time are actually being listened to and being believed,” Gordon said.
“The AWMAs are not something that could have happened 20, 30 years ago. It’s happening now because the time is right. Both men and women really want change to happen and there’s also an enormous hunger everywhere, globally, for a more diverse and inclusive community.”
Queensland is leading the way
The AWMAs are much more than an awards ceremony; the event is surrounded by two days of free workshops, panels and film screenings at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Queensland is slowly emerging as a musical superpower state thanks to events like BIGSOUND and its support in hosting the inaugural AWMAs.
“Why Queensland?” said Gordon.
“Because of [premier] Annastacia Palaszczuk. She is an extraordinary politician who has a major commitment – unlike many of the other states – to give at least a 50/50 equality to women politicians and to establish more female voices through that ministerial process. Queensland is where it’s happening.”
Speaking to Gordon after the panel, she confirmed to TMN that she did shop the awards to Victoria and New South Wales. State representatives either didn’t want to speak with her or, even more concerningly, wanted to remove the word “women” from the title.
Representation is essential
Panel facilitator and broadcaster Tracee Hutchison introduced the idea that even though Australian female musicians are killing it right now, the industry needs to do a lot of work behind the scenes.
“What we need to do to create real change, to create systemic change, is to get our facts and numbers right,” said Gordon.
She then presented the research she did in collaboration with the MEAA into women working in the industry which turned up the fact that, “Male advantage is a pervasive influence on the Australian music industry.”
The report showed up that Australia’s peak music boards are overwhelmingly male. ARIA’s board 100% male, AIR’s is 82% male, APRA’s is 76% male and AMCOS is 92% male. These are current statistics as of September 2018.
Kween G went on to include the importance of the representation of women of colour within the industry and the AWMAs partnering with Settlement Services International to make sure these voices are heard.
“We should normalise hearing music of different languages on a mainstream platform, we should normalise seeing women of colour, women with different abilities. We should be focusing on quality and normalising that,” she said.
Create the community, create the change
“You can’t move a mountain by kicking.”
The conversation eventually turned to Camp Cope‘s calling out of Falls Festival’s lack of diversity on their 2017 line up and the incredible need for women and men to create the community to facilitate change.
The panel also impressed the importance of women supporting women, so we’re “no longer at the mercy of men telling us what we can and can’t do.”
“You need to find the champion,” said Sager.
“You need to find that one person, that turns into two people, that turns into three people. You might not be able to change them all but you can find a starting space.”
“Humans hate standing out,” agreed Montaigne.
“Once that one person stands up with you, you’re starting a group and people fucking love groups.”
Men need to stand up
The issue of festivals is omnipresent and highlighted the need for male fronted acts to stand up in solidarity with the female musicians that are trying to create change.
“These incredible artists like Jen Cloher, Courtney Barnett, Camp Cope can continue to rail at the ceiling but until artists like Gang Of Youths, Ball Park Music, Dune Rats and any of the dozens and dozens of other acts that are constantly billed on these festivals, until they stand up and say ‘I’m not going to do this anymore until you book more women’, it’s not going to change,” LaFevre said.
“Because festivals know they can get away with it. I had a festival promoter tell me a few years ago: ‘Well we don’t have a lot of women but we’ll just cop the heat for a few days, we’ll send out an apology and then it’ll be all good until next year.’
“It needs to start with the festivals and it needs to start with the bands.”
Kween G continues, “We’re always talking about women empowerment, maybe it’s time for some men on men women empowerment. So they can feel empowered enough to speak up and stand beside us and create change.”
The Australian Women In Music Awards will take place from October 9-10 at the Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information and to purchase tickets, head over to the official website.