Women in Entertainment: A Discussion of Diversity in Music and Film Production

Rowan hosts a virtual discussion surrounding issues of diversity and gender within the media industry. - Photo via Pixabay.com

On April 7, the Women’s & Gender Studies program, the Music Department, the Radio, Television and Film (RTF) Department, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Performing Arts and the Ric Edelman College of Communication and Creative Arts all sponsored “Women in Entertainment: A Discussion of Diversity in Music and Film Production.” This virtual event discussed gender and diversity issues in the world of media production.

Derek Jones, station manager of Rowan Radio 89.7 WGLS-FM, was the event’s moderator and introduced the panel of guest speakers, including Leslie Gaston-Bird, governor-at-large for the Audio Engineering Society, sound editor Adele Fletcher and Kate Kinninmont, founder of The F-Word Media Company, where she works to develop female-led projects.

Gaston-Bird has her bachelor’s degree in telecommunications, but she started as a board operator for the radio station at Indiana University. When she was 22, she moved to Washington, D.C. to start a career in radio. In 2002, Gaston-Bird made the transition to post-production sound.

Fletcher received her degree in film production and specialized in sound. She knew that she had a passion for what she majored in, and was willing to do whatever it took to land her first job. Kinninmont started her journey as a researcher in radio in the early 1980s, and she went on to work for the BBC and different broadcasters. She also did freelance work on the side.

As seniors prepare for graduation in the coming weeks, the prospect of getting hired for any organization looks bleak. We must also factor in the unfortunate reality that we cannot physically be around our mentors and, essentially, are learning everything through a screen.

“Right now, in this sort of time we are in, everything is remote,” Fletcher said. “And so, I’ve been talking to colleagues, and it’s a worry that you learn so much just from being in the same room with another person who’s been there, done that. And, that obviously isn’t happening and hasn’t happened for the past year. That’s a worry. So hopefully, that will change.”

There is no telling how things will unfold a year from now, whether we continue to work virtually or return to operating fully in-person, but regardless, remote internships give hope that jobs are still available.

“Be active. Don’t be passive,” Gaston-Bird said. “Don’t wait for opportunity to come to you. Get your LinkedIn profile up and running. Get your CV ready and follow up regularly – like every month, you set up a calendar event in your personal calendar and every four weeks, that’s what you do that day.”

Fletcher, Gaston-Bird and Kinninmont all share the common theme of working in sound media. These three women prove that this type of work in entertainment isn’t just for men. What matters is how hard you are willing to work and not accepting “no” as an answer.

“I’m vice chair of an organization called The Association of Motion Picture Sound, and we did a recent survey, and I think the number was 14% of our membership were women, which obviously is not good enough. And we’re doing a lot of work to try and change that,” Fletcher said.

As either or both a woman or person of color in the entertainment industry, networking with others who understand where you are coming from can help you to get through unexpected challenges.

“It’s all about kind of keeping it in the circle and giving back and things come to you,” Fletcher said. “You never know what opportunities can come up. You just never know.”

One of the key takeaways from this event was the hardships and truths surrounding women in the entertainment industry, specifically sound. Talking about creating change is one way of beginning to make it happen, but now is the time to seek action versus simply hearing about it.

“We should make sure that this industry is open to all and be welcoming to all and supportive of all,” Gaston-Bird said. “The number one thing is to get past the grand idea of diversity, equity and inclusion and start getting people hired and employed. And that’s where I think the magic is going to happen.”

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