SoundGirls.Org co-founder Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato
Given that women have better hearing than men and also comprise more than half the professional workforce in the U.S., you’d think they’d be better represented in the pro audio world. That’s not the case yet, but SoundGirls.Org, founded in 2013, is helping change that situation.
To find out more, we sat down with SoundGirls co-founder Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato. Having spent the last 25 years on the road mixing Gwen Stefani, Goo Goo Dolls, Kesha, Spin Doctors, Mr. Big, Indigo Girls, Styx, Melissa Etheridge, Big Time Rush and others, Sabolchick has seen the challenges facing women in pro audio, and has poured that insight into SoundGirls, a website whose Mission Statement reads “Our goal is to provide a place where women in live sound can connect, network, and support each other while also inspiring and empowering the next generation of women in audio.”
How did SoundGirls start? What was the inspiration?
Well, Karrie Keyes—the monitor engineer for Pearl Jam—and I started SoundGirls. We both met for the first time back in 2012 when we spoke on a panel at AES. It was called "Women of Live Sound" and it was five women—Karrie, myself, Jeri Palumbo, Claudia Engelhart and Deanne Franklin. Karrie and I had known of each other for pretty much our entire careers but never crossed paths before that day; the rest of the panel, other than that I knew Deanne Franklin, none of us even knew of each other, let alone had heard of each other—and we’d all been in the business for 20-years-plus! We met five minutes before we spoke and instantly bonded like sisters—it was great. It was a really good experience and we all had very similar stories of how we got into the business.
I’d been wanting to reach out to young women to let them know, "Look, this is an option for you; just because it’s a male-dominated field doesn’t mean that women can’t do it." I was trying to look for a way to do that, and Karrie got inspired by wondering how would things have been different if all five of us had known each other throughout our careers and had been there to support each other. We started talking and came up with the whole idea—basically the organization was built to give women who work in live sound or professional audio a place to connect and network and support each other. It's also a place to inspire young women who might be interested in a career in audio or music production and empower them with a road map of how to get in the business and then support them on their journey.
And SoundGirls isn’t strictly about live sound, is it?
Our backgrounds are mainly live sound so that’s where it started, but it is open to anyone—all forms of audio and music production. One thing we do is to feature a different profile on our website every month on a successful woman in the business from all walks of the industry—everybody from Kathy Sander, who was the first woman to work at Clair Brothers on tour as one of their first female audio technicians back in the Seventies, to Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Sound, who is the Queen of Recording! It covers everything. We did a profile on Jett Galindo, who’s a mastering engineer, and we’ve got a few people who do audio for video games. We want to cover all the different aspects of the audio industry. Our background is live sound, so that is where a lot of the content comes from, but we do have plans in the future to branch out into other avenues.
You launched the site in 2013—how has the reaction been?
It’s been great. We have about 500 members, we’re also on Facebook where it’s been growing every day, and the industry has been very supportive, men and women alike. We’ve got a lot of members who are male as well and they’re thrilled, you know—they’re like, "Whatever we can do to help and support." It’s been great—very positive.