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‘I was always aware of my gender’: Celebrating women in audio with Shure

Significant members of the pro audio and AV industries discussed their thoughts on gender diversity

L-R: Helen Goddard, Malle Kaas, Hannah Brodrick and Maddie Vining

Last night, we had the pleasure of attending Shure’s Celebrating Women in Audio event at the brand’s newly opened Rose Shure Experience Centre based in Monument, London. With technology sitting at the heart of the offices and conference rooms extremely well-equipped to host the exciting panel we were all gearing up for – with the help of the champagne reception – significant pro audio and AV industry figures had the opportunity to give us their thoughts on the issues surrounding gender diversity.

One thought-provoking question covered on the panel was, can you be what you can’t see? This refers to the lack of female role models in the pro audio and AV industries, and if this, in and of itself, inhibits women from entering careers in these fields. The panellists discussed the question in depth.

Kevin McLoughlin, AVIXA Diversity & AV manager, Royal Society of Medicine, said: “The AV industry is obviously male-dominated, and if you’re a woman looking in from the outside and you see a room full of men, it may have an effect that you don’t want to be part of that group.”

Helen Goddard, president of The Institute of Sound and Communication Engineers, said: “When I found myself in the industry – we’re more installed sound at ISCE and I’m an electro acoustician – I didn’t have anyone to look at. But what I did find was some interesting middle-aged men who were very willing to take “the girl” into the fold. I found I was mentored really wonderfully and given every opportunity to show what I could do.”

She continued: “At the ISCE, 12 out of our 600 members are female, which is shocking. But then, on the other hand, I’m also like, ‘who are they?’ Because I know Honey, who came about 12 years ago but beyond that, we don’t see these women turning out to events.”

Hannah Brodrick, FOH engineer and co-founder of Women In Live Music added: “When I went through education in sound, college, university, etc., I had one female lecturer. And for me, that was my one female role model. And she wasn’t even in sound, she was an electronics engineer. So when I came into the industry, I was always aware of my gender. Sometimes you just want to blend in, and I had a real problem with self-doubt because, for a long time, I thought that women just weren’t as good as men at technical things as I didn’t know any women doing it. I just thought men must have something in their brain that made them better at these things, and women at other things.

“It wasn’t until I found out about Sound Girls and Kerrie Keyes – founder of SoundGirls and monitoring engineer for Pearl Jam – that I found someone I could be, who was at the top of their game. When I found her, my confidence completely shot up. But it wasn’t until I saw someone else doing it that I thought I could. And that is one of the reasons we started Women In Live Music.”

Malle Kaas, live engineer and CEO of Women in Live Music, gave her point of view: “Well, the funny thing is I grew up with two older brothers who were my role models, and also because I was the youngest I’d get their clothes, so I’d be wearing guys clothes. So when I entered the industry, I thought I was one of the guys! And that was super intimidating for my male colleagues because they thought I was hitting on them, but I just wanted to know what they knew. 

“At the same time, I was aware I was a woman. It was my dream to be the one behind the console since I was a young girl. When I was eight years old, I’d play with my dad’s hifi, moving the speakers around. I don’t know where it came from. I felt so small next to the guys, so I never got behind the console. I actually dropped out of the industry for about 12 years, but then Kerrie Keyes called me up and asked me if I wanted to be part of her organisation. And I said I’d start a European chapter.”

Maddie Vining, senior AV technician at Royal Society of Medicine, said: “I never thought I’d get into AV. I thought I’d be a famous musician, and it was the female musicians I always looked up to. If you don’t see females doing things, you think, ‘maybe I’m not good enough to do it’. Men often step in trying to show you how to do things, and it’s about telling them, ‘It’s ok, I can do it, I don’t need a man to help me'”.

You can find a full-length piece on Shure’s women in audio event and the insightful subjects discussed in the April issue of PSNEurope, out at the end of this month. You can subscribe to receive the print magazine for free as an industry professional, or you can sign up to receive alerts for the digital edition release.