IWD 2021: Moving the Needle

With International Women’s Day 2021 theme being #ChooseToChallenge, TPi’s Stew Hume and Jacob Waite shine a light on the tireless work of organisations and individuals challenging the lack of diversity in the live events sector.

Launched on International Women’s Day 2021, Moving the Needle (MTN) is made up of a group of influential women who have reached the top in the UK music industry. MTN strives to be an educational support group. Its members’ goal is to #ChooseToChallenge the status quo where women come into the UK music industry in droves, yet only hold a third of senior management roles. That is despite the fact that the UK is famed for pushing the boundaries of creative innovation as the world’s second biggest exporter of music – an industry worth £5.2bn a year.

Production Group CEO and Founder of Moving The Needle, Karen Emanuel

MTN’s mission is to boost the number of young women entering the industry through education; support women in the UK music industry and to mentor women to reach their full potential and gain senior management roles. Its vision is to see women of all backgrounds, ethnicities and personality types join the many niches and roles available; for women to know that their talent and hard work will be reflected in the promotions, pay and respect they deserve, regardless of gender; a 0% gender pay gap; women in 50% of the industry’s senior management roles; women staying in the industry beyond the age of 45.

MTN’s leadership programme will consists of mentoring and training via workshops, panels and debates, with a focus on building vital career skills, such as how to network and negotiate. The group will also help to drive out ‘imposter syndrome’ and build resilience.

Vick Bain, Consultant and Curator of The F-List, is on MTN’s advisory board. “There is not one black, female CEO or Chair of a UK music trade body. Everyone in the industry should be helping in our mission,” she said. “We want to feel proud that our dynamic industry is fair and diverse, and we’re prepared to make some noise to make this happen. We need people and organisations to join in our mission. The time is now!”

Key Production Group CEO, Karen Emanuel is a board member and founder of MTN. “In the late 1980s, someone told me that to join this industry, I’d have to start as a secretary. Well, I never learned to type, and I’ve done pretty well without that skill by knowing my numbers. I’m still not seeing enough women come in and rise to the top in the ‘nuts and bolts’ side of this business. It drives me crazy. We need to bring young women into the ‘behind the scenes’ areas and ‘nuts and bolts’ roles such as mine, which are still predominantly male,” she noted. “At a recent conference I attended about distribution and manufacture of music, I calculated how many attendees were female – it was a miserly 5%.”

She continued: “Women may leave because they don’t get good enough support after returning from maternity leave, or because having children means they are unable to network as much as their male counterparts, or because (certainly pre COVID-19) they aren’t given the flexibility they need. Or maybe they just assume they’ll never get to the top, because they hardly see any women there. When I started Key Production, people would arrive in my office and ask me if they could see the boss. I was the boss!”

This article originally appeared in issue #259 of TPi, which you can read here.