Why can’t women be rock stars too?

Photo by Alex Clelland

Sarah Mark performing at E.P. Taylor's at the 2017 Reel Music Festival.

Gender imbalance in the music industry was the focus of the Women in Industry panel at this year’s Reel Music Festival.

The discussion focused on why there seems to be a never-ending supply of female artists in the world, but behind the scenes those numbers are dominated by men.

Panelists included MBM professor Kathryn Waugh, country singer Marie Bottrell and Plan V Production’s Emily Sonoda. Plan V Productions has promoted and produced events such as Wayhome, Boots & Hearts, Digital Dreams, and Vans Warped Tour.

The panel was a chance for the audience to have a Q & A session with women about the realities and difficulties for women to make it in music. The audience included a balanced number of both men and women.

Waugh says the biggest challenge for women in music working behind the scenes is the constant demand to always go the extra mile, just to be in the same league as the men.

“Women have to work harder and faster to get things accomplished. It’s a blessing and a curse,” she says. “[We’re] expected to do more, faster, but it’s not because you want to, it’s because you have to do more to be on the same level as the guys doing the same job.”

Working in the industry, Waugh said she noticed most of her colleagues and bosses were men, but she did not have any female leaders to look up to as role models. There were many times when she was the only woman in the room, and the respect she received was not the same as her male colleagues.

         “When you say the word ‘rock star’ do you picture a man or a woman? When you say the word ‘producer’ or ‘manager’ or ‘technician’ which gender are you picturing? I think it has to start at that level,” Waugh says.

She says the first step towards equality is attitude. Waugh says young women need to have strong mentors in the industry – both men and women – in order to be successful.

“There’s a responsibility to the males in the industry, not just the women,” she says. “They need to encourage young girls to be present and should respect and recognize the talents that women bring to the table.”

Men continue to dominate the music industry, but through an active change in attitude and behavior, the panelists say women can successfully obtain positions of power behind the scenes to secure strong leadership roles. All it takes is strong mentorship, talent, and unshakeable drive to become an iconic figure in the music industry.