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News October 5, 2017

Gender inequality is alive and thriving across conference speaker lineups… Here’s the proof

Lars Brandle
Gender inequality is alive and thriving across conference speaker lineups… Here’s the proof

The music industry has long perpetuated an image of a boy’s club. A white, older boy’s club. And when the biz meets at conferences, it’s typically the lads who get to play the rock stars on stage.

But does the perception truly connect with reality? A young, female music-tech writer went in search for the answers and the results are pretty compelling.

Writing for Medium, the 21-year-old music-tech writer Cherie Hu crunched the numbers across 13 industry summits, including Bigsound, and analysed the dataset of 1,644 total speakers.

Her conclusion: music conferences exacerbate real-world gender imbalances. Hu found 73% of speakers at these conferences are male, and the percentage rises among “C-Suite executive speakers” (CEOs, COOs, CMOs), with men making up 81% of the total (Bigsound it must be noted does not get singled out for special attention, negative or otherwise).

In fact, the Brisbane conference is known as an active contributor to the pursuit of gender parity as it doesn’t re-use speakers often, offering more opportunity to women.

In her analysis, entitled ‘Unbalancing Act: How Conferences Perpetuate The Music Industry’s Gender Parity Crisis,’ Hu cross references speakers to observe the type of lineup recycling we typically see with music festival bills and she goes deeper still with an investigation into whether certain types of music companies had a worse gender imbalance at confabs than others.

Guess what…it gets ugly, particularly at the “live,” “tech/startup” and “video/film” spaces on the foodchain. The sectors found to represent the highest proportion of female voices tended to be “marketing and PR,” ”sync” and “radio and editorial,” Hu found.

It’s a fine read, crammed with graphs and graphics and balanced conclusions. And it’s a prescient one that comes as professionals, across the biz and in myriad markets, demand a fairer, inclusive industry. Under the direction of WIN CEO Alison Wenham, the trade body and its U.K. partner AIM have launched public speaking training to address the critical lack of gender diversity “which often prevails at industry conferences,” the indies association notes.

AIM’s Indie-Con conference in February was one of the U.K. music industry’s only events to achieve 50/50 gender equality with its speakers’ line-up. Today, AIM and WIN call on all industry conferences to take the pledge “no more manels” (all-male panels).

The report’s author Hu concludes, “I don’t think it’s asking too much of conferences to reflect seriously on what kind of community and industry they are hoping for, and what standards they are emulating and elevating for acknowledging this community as a result.”

Read the study here.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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