7 May 2013

The Problem for Women in the Industry

CX81 Jason Editorial pic

By Jason Allen

On International Women’s Day (March 8), I read an article by musician, producer and blogger Madeleine Bloom about her experiences working tech support at DAW company Ableton.  Noticing only a very small percentage of people contacting her were women, she dug into the numbers for confirmation – only 7% of Ableton’s registered users in 2010/2011 were female.  This is a quantifiable number for a phenomenon noticed by everyone working in the production industry, regardless of sector.  It doesn’t matter if you’re up a scissor lift rigging a light, tweaking a graphic EQ or cutting together a B-roll – this is a male dominated industry.
Enough ink has been spilled about why this is the case to render some of the explanations clichéd –   technical fields aren’t glamorous enough, the hours are a disincentive.  These arguments are rubbish; they’re disincentives that apply to both genders.  There’s been little to no objective research carried out to give us an answer, just the airing of a lot of opinion.  But something dawned on me as I read that blog and followed a stream of comments about it on Twitter – the disparity is my fault.  Yep, mine.  I, and countless others like me, am doing something that discourages women from participating in our industry.
It turns out it could be something as simple as just not being female.  A recent study by management consultancy firm Bain & Company showed that “women are five times more likely to be promoters of their organisation when females represent more than 25% of the executive team”* What does that mean to our industry?  Think of it this way:  You’re the junior employee unloading the truck, dreaming of the day they’ll let you behind the big desk.  You look up from your labours and notice that all the people with the cool jobs at the top, and just about everyone else in between, don’t share your gender.  This leads you, rightly or wrongly, to make assumptions about your chances of ever getting anywhere.
The “promoter of their organisation” behaviour starts once an employee thinks that they have a chance of career progression, and recommend their workplace to others.  You’re not going to do that if you think you lack something fundamental to success that you can’t learn or create.  Once we get to the critical mass where the women entering our industry can see and feel a clear path to the top, the balance should start to redress.
And 25% is all it will take – when there’s just a fighting chance to identify with some of those that have made it.  Be honest with yourself boys – if you had looked up from that roadcase you were pushing and seen that everyone taking the glory, getting profiled in mags, credited on albums, awarded at ceremonies and lauded by their peers was female, would you have persisted?
*“Creating a positive cycle: Critical steps to achieving gender parity in Australia”, February 06, 2013 Bain report By Melanie Sanders, David Zehner, Dr. Jenny Fagg and Meredith Hellicar


Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.