Music Teacher addresses shortfall of women in the industry

A Music Technology Teacher at Shrewsbury Colleges Group has spoken out about how women are changing the face of engineering and producing in time for International Women’s Day. (WED 8 MARCH).

Beth McGowan, who teaches at the London Road campus, has been interviewed by NPR, an American media organisation based in L.A, which delivers breaking and national world news across a range of sectors, including the music industry.

The article was published at the end of February and in it, author Lily Moayeri, talks about the lack of female engineers and producers in music. Beth, and other women working in the music industry, were interviewed about their own experiences of how they got into the industry and struggles they have had. It draws on a 2012 BBC News report which highlighted the low numbers of female students in production and engineering, citing a ratio of one female student to 10 male students. But things are turning around with Beth now teaching 13 females – the most she has ever had on her courses. A third of the students in their first year of their Music Tech course are female and in her HND in Music Production course more than 50% are women.

Beth said: “I believe it is becoming the norm to have women working in music production and that is why we have these numbers. When I was at the height of my sound engineering career, in the 90s, there were less than five women working in my role and I very rarely worked with them. It raised eyebrows in the male dominated studios when I turned up.

“I have been a teacher for 10 years now. I started 24 years ago as a self-employed sound engineer and worked at all sorts of events from huge live shows to one-on-one studio sessions. The women that I now teach have greater opportunities than I did and I’m so pleased for them.”

When Beth was earning her degree in the '90s, she was the only woman in her program studying live sound. She was a television sound engineer and worked for a range of successful bands on their live tours. Since beginning teaching, she's seen the impact of her presence in the classroom on her female students.

She said: “Purely by being a female teacher and because I've actually been out there and done it, is attracting more females to our course.

"I have a lot of female students who want to be sound engineers now, whereas before they took my course, they weren't really sure what they wanted to do in the industry.

"Women have to be better than their male counterparts from the outset. I feel I have to prepare them for the reality of that.”

Beth says that during her time in the industry, she has seen conditions improve for women — but that some problems still remain. In 1990, when she decided she wanted to do her degree with an eye toward working in live sound, she was told it wasn't really a job for girls.

"It's less about girls being comfortable in that environment, it's more about guys getting used to having a girl there and adapting their behaviour. But these days’ people are more aware. When I was first starting out, I had to ignore all the comments about women. You had to let it go or you'd be seen as making a big deal out of it, whereas today you have to stand up to it,” she added.

HND Music Technology student, Anna Davies-Jones, 22, from Oswestry, said: “I chose to study HND Music Technology at Shrewsbury Colleges Group because of the brilliant resources and Beth’s teaching. It’s also great doing a higher education course closer to home because I am familiar with my surroundings and have all my family and friends nearby. I am hoping to go to Salford University afterwards, or get an Apprenticeship at Media City with the BBC. I am aware that there are less women in the music production industry, but I know I have the ability to succeed. I’m excited for females in the music industry because things are changing.”

For more information on A Levels, visit www.ssfc.ac.uk or call 01743 235491. For more information about vocational courses and Apprenticeships, visit www.shrewsbury.ac.uk or call 01743 342342. Or come to the Advice Event on 22 March at London Road, between 5- 7.

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