Despite the constant refrains of “is this still a thing?” when the issue of industry sexism is raised, the sector has a long way to go before genuine parity is reflected. However, as yesterday’s Electronic Music Conference panel Conscious/Unconscious Gender Bias showed, the industry is taking steps towards change through initiatives aimed at addressing the gaps in confidence, skill, and pay.
A lack of confidence remains one of the most pervasive forms of unconscious bias within the industry. As panel facilitator Michelle G Hunder acknowledged, “Women have to be so good at something before they put themselves out there. A lot of men jump right in, which is great – we should encourage women to jump in the deep end too”.
Mentoring initiatives and active encouragement from within the industry are a vital step in addressing those gaps in confidence. “Watching the development of someone when they’re given the tools to have a creative voice and be trusted with it, they develop very quickly”, said panelist Carly Roberts. Her dance event group PICNIC actively employs female staff and helps them to develop skills and have a voice, something that Roberts found difficult as a young DJ. “I felt like trying to take up space that I wanted was increasingly hard because of my sex – no one believed how serious I was”.
Jana Gibson of APRA AMCOS agreed – “if we’re going to grow the skills of women in our business we need to provide tools”. Looking internally, APRA AMCOS currently runs a mentoring program for 10 women interested in progressing and actively facilitate that progression. “We can identify people who are skilled but need that increase in confidence”.
Tokenism is another big issue – it can feel disingenuous when a female or trans artist has been chosen to join a bill simply to fill a quota. When it comes to gaps within organisations, Gibson says it’s about looking honestly at your values and what you’re trying to change. “Sometimes quotes encourage people – but our approach has been about programs that build up confidence and skills”.
Distinguishing bias as unconscious is an important part of figuring out how to best address it – it’s not so much that people in positions of power are discriminating on purpose but instead, as DJ Brooke Powers acknowledged, it’s a result of how structures of society and business are set up. As such, it’s important that men in the industry be active in facilitating change – we have to move forward together.
Powers, a bastion of Melbourne’s underground scene, spoke about how politically charged the community of clubbing in Melbourne has been over the past three-four years, as conversations about things like inclusivity and gender neutral bathrooms have become commonplace. Powers cited grassroots feminist orginisation LISTEN and spaces like Cool Room as groups that had been part of facilitating change. Now, that discussion is starting to go mainstream – with Powers citing herself and Melbourne duo Habits being selected to close out day one of this year’s Golden Plains festival. “People want to be included as human beings”.