Given the range of talented female singer-songwriters killing it in the Australian music industry right now, it’s surprising to learn that just one in five of the members of the largest body representing composers are female.
Jana Gibson is hoping to change that. She starts as head of member services at the 95,000 member strong APRA AMCOS next month, but has already initiated a significant gender diversity program that includes targets and even a 40% quota-like system for women performing, speaking and judging at APRA AMCOS events.
Jana’s been with APRA for 15 years serving in a number of positions, having originally started as their event manager. APRA AMCOS is a non-for-profit organisation, members don’t pay to join but rather register the work they create in order to collect royalties and help music users legally pay and copy music.
Currently, just one in five (22%) of their members identify as female, while the percentage or royalty payments going to female members sits somewhere between 15 and 21%.
Their new gender diversity program aims to double the number of incoming applications by women by 2020, setting the public target, and making a number of commitments to better appeal to the potential female membership base. Gibson says the target is necessary because they want to hold themselves accountable, set an example to others, and demonstrate the value of chasing such a benchmark.
“It means we’re actively trying to identify opportunities that will bring women into the membership,” says Gibson.
APRA AMCOS has also been looking at making internal shifts on gender diversity, given 52% of their staff are female but this isn’t being represented at the top — with Gibson’s appointment putting a woman in the eight person leadership team. Meanwhile, the board is also still heavily dominated by men, where appointments are made by member votes.
The program will see APRA AMCOS investing in a songwriting/composer mentoring program for female members (with half of the mentors involved to be male), as well as offering short-term work placements, technical skills training, masterclasses and networking opportunities.
They’ve also established a ‘40/40/20′ measure on membership programs that will ensure 40% of APRA-related awards judges are female, while 40% of its ambassadors will soon be female (up from the current 30%), with women to also make up 40% of future panellists, presenters and performers at national events .
Gibson said there’s already pressure on large music festivals to get more female artists on their program, and that APRA wanted to ensure that the seminars and awards programs can set an example by ensuring at least 40% of those involved are female.
The massive push for more female members comes following extensive research in 2017 that aimed to better understand barriers to women’s inclusion in one segment of creators they represent: screen composers.
They found women in the space are far less likely to be making a sustainable career from this work, are getting fewer opportunities than their male counterparts – despite being better educated – are more likely to experience sexism, and less likely to win professional awards.
They also found that post high school, the number of women pursuing careers in music drops significantly.
“Much of what we found was what we have also been hearing anecdotally, including that women aren’t always feeling like they should be calling themselves a songwriter or a composer, because they might be doing it on the side, or think there is no value in it.”
Gibson is determined to involve men in the conversation, especially given so much work in this space comes from networking, and a great introduction can kickstart a massive career. “We can all network amongst ourselves, but until we invite men into these conversations and make them aware of the issue.’
And while the program has mostly been received favourably by the membership base, Gibson has received some ‘feedback’ on those that are not happy with APRA AMCOS spending money this way.
She cites examples of members coming in for meetings with the CEO to voice their grievances with the targets they have set.
These members might be vocal and determined, but they still make up just a tiny proportion of the full membership base.
“That’s where we say we do have 95,000 members: the majority of feedback we have gotten supports this and it will only make us stronger,” says Gibson.