At face value, Women’s Work festival in Belfast is a celebration of women in music – but ultimately the organisers want to address the gender balance to ensure that females involved in the industry do not get mistaken for members of the catering staff.
Speaking from experience Charlene Hegarty from the Oh Yeah Centre said it was important to level the playing field so that women could have the same opportunities as men to succeed in roles such as music producers or engineers.
She said: “I can speak from my own personal experience. Growing up in the small town of Maghera there were no examples of any females around me with a job in the music industry.
“I went to a further education music-based college course after I left official education.
“I was one of three girls in a course. There were 40 students overall.
“The odds were stacked against me, but I was stubborn. I was able to make it work for myself.
“I just don’t think it should have to be that hard.”
She added: “We’ve seen that pre-16 there’s a lot more females signing up for courses, then there’s a drop off. I feel like I know the answer why. I’ve walked that road. I’ve been the only female in the room.
“I’ve been the female that gets mistaken for a member of the catering staff when entering a music venue. All of that happens.”
She said: “Across the board in music we have a problem where we’re not even close in terms of gender parity.
“The latest report which was produced in Forbes magazine based on the most popular music output from 2012 to 2018 found that only 21.7% of artists are female.
“It found only 12.3% of musicians that were registered as songwriters were female.
“Then you get down to the studio roles like producers and you’ve only just over 2% who are women.
“The stereotype in music that we’re rallying against is that the woman was always the singer, the person rolled out in front, and the engine and the ideas behind it all was constructed by men.”
Charlene added: “There’s a lot of work to be done globally. Women’s Work was born out of that understanding. We in Northern Ireland have to do our part to make things better.”
Women’s Work starts today and runs until Sunday, June 9.
One of the highlights includes the Belfast debut of The Guilty Feminist. The award-winning podcast presented by Deborah Frances-White will be recorded live at the Limelight 1 on Saturday.
l For full details go to www.womensworkni.co.uk