If I’d told my 16/17 year old self that one day I’d own my own studio and that I’d be teaching sound and media to college students I’d have laughed, heartily. Not because I thought I wasn’t capable but because I’d been told it couldn’t happen to someone like me….a girl……a girl with no talent for science!! And yet here I am.
You see when I went into that Careers Advisor with a head full (admittedly) of dreams, saying how I wanted to work in a recording studio preferably as an engineer or a producer, the advisors words were (and I do still remember them) “well I don’t think that’s a suitable career choice for a girl and how on earth can you be any kind of engineer when you’re no good at any sciences or maths”. I was told that to be a sound engineer I’d need to excel at maths and physics like all other ‘engineering’ courses….and that was not going to happen!
And now the bit about it all that irks me the most. I believed them! I took their advice and became a secretary, obviously a much better job for a girl!!
Luckily my love for sound and music didn’t go away and after teaching myself all I could on my first four track and subsequent bigger recording contraptions a chance encounter with a fellow Glaswegian whilst in the States made me decide that I still had to follow this desire and so at aged 26 I gave up my secretarial job (although I must admit the skills I learned as a medical secretary have served me well) and went back to being a student and sat in the class with 16 and 17 years olds (as I started this blog as) to get any kind of entry requirements to go back to college and study this thing that had always been my first love. It was tough but I did it and discovered that maths and physics are not really required at all!!
Fast forward some (ahem) years and I do indeed find myself as a lecturer and studio owner. I spent nearly 20 years mixing for, mainly, TV but also films, radio, music, anything I could get my hands on to mix and was lucky to, almost always, be treated as an equal and with the same respect my male colleagues received. I managed to encourage and get other women jobs in the audio industry and I thought all was well.
Then a strange thing happened, I realised it wasn’t. In all the time I’d been working the numbers for women weren’t really increasing at all. I got to my first lectures and still saw a very small number of girls taking to the mixing board, why? I spoke to former female students who had encountered that same silliness of “not a suitable job for a girl” I had encountered in the 1980’s. This is now the 21st century! I’ve been wondering just how far forward we have actually moved, surely it’s not still possible that Careers Advisors in schools are still peddling the same old-fashioned theories?
So, over the past year or two I have found myself speaking up more, joining more groups like That’s Sound and Sound Women to try and get to understand this lack of women coming into audio. This world that has offered me so much. I’ve spoken to present female students who make no bones about the fact that even having a female lecturer seems like a giant step forward for them. A sudden sign of encouragement that they can do it, a sign that perhaps it is possible to break through the thick wall of boys n toys sitting at the desk in their shorts being very blokeish, because believe you me that is still very much prevalent in this audio world.
The truth is I don’t have the answers, I don’t know why still so few women are taking up audio (certainly in the technical side) as a career option. I’d like to understand it more and if it’s the case that girls are still being put off going into the industry I’d like to address that where possible. If it’s the case that it’s just not a job that interests most women then I can accept that (if I have no chance of understanding it considering how much and how important sound and audio have been to me).
The recording studio is a wonderful environment. Yes, it’s a technical environment with many different aspects of technology coming together, but it’s no different from any other technical environment. It shouldn’t be off-putting to girls and hopefully schools can give all pupils a chance to get comfortable in such environments, it would be so beneficial to them in terms of confidence etc also. However, as well as being a technical area it is also incredibly creative. I’m happy that Sound Production is part of the Creative Industries in our curriculum, it’s not just music that’s creative, the producing of sound for film, radio and TV is as creative and maybe we need to help promote that side of the role too. I hope to find the solutions and I hope to see more female faces as the each new year of recruits comes in.