A recent post on Designing Sound by April Tucker generated a number of shocking anecdotes in the comments, as well as being one of the site’s hottest posts ever (9K+ views in less than 24 hours). Why was Tucker’s post such a big deal?
I subscribe to the theory that most people, in their professional lives, prefer to promote those who are like them; look like them and laugh like them. I use ‘promote’ in both the literal and figurative sense, i.e. we’re likely to champion people who remind us of ourselves. I believe that this is one of the reasons why inequality perpetuates, whether the issue is women in audio, or the wider society. In order to overcome this and move towards greater equality, we need positive actions: actions that are proactive, but not necessarily positively discriminatory. When I look at my own experience, I see plenty of women in audio. Not anywhere close to proportional, but more than a fair few. However, when one takes a closer look, certain trends emerge. For example, almost all of the women I can think of working in audio are working freelance. Go to the 'Who We Are’ (or similar) pages of the Top 50 post-production houses in the UK, and women don’t exist in audio (neither do ethnic minorities, but that’s a whole other debate for another day). So there are women in audio, but they’re not staffers. This is troubling, and it needs to change. However, it is not the only problem.
My direct experience is limited but I have, nevertheless, yet to come across a women who said she had left the profession to pursue another career because of active discrimination, or a lack of equality. If there are any out there, it would be interesting to hear from them. Women are not choosing audio as a career, and this has to be acknowledged as part of the problem. Another issue that crops us up in the comments of the Designing Sound post is that women are being encouraged, if they are encouraged at all, to pursue a path in dialogue editing rather than, say, mixing. This is an anecdotal observation that has also come to my ears from other quarters.
At the end of the day, Tucker’s post was a big deal because it exposed (with concrete examples) the fact that when you don’t see people like you at the top of their game in your chosen profession, it can be disheartening and, almost certainly, discouraging. It also illustrates that the status quo are often running scared, not necessarily out of sheer malice, but perhaps for no other reason than that they simply don’t know how to (re)act.
There is no-one to blame for the lack of women in audio and that perpetuates the lack of action: there is no evil figure ‘to stick it to.’ As Tucker says, women who work in audio need to keep on doing what they’re doing and (I believe) draw attention to their work, not their gender. Bjork said (brilliantly) in a Pitchfork interview earlier in the year: “Everything that a guy says once, [women] have to say five times”. Women will be seen as 'shouty’, 'pushy’ or 'angry’ for adopting this stance. But, if the work is good and interesting, it’s a price that everybody will surely be willing to pay.