Standard: Established by an authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality. That's the usual definition. But this exciting panel of professional women showed that music industry standards vary enormously for them.

My fellow professionals gathered at Twitter Australia on Thursday night, all as eager as I to listen and learn from women in a range of professions.

It's very important for me to stress this group wasn't a bunch of ‘angry feminists’. It was an incredible forum of passionate professionals exploring how we can empower more people - men and women - to be more active and assertive in building a community that sets standards for more respect for each other and equal opportunities.

Panelists included keynote speaker Tracee Hutchison, facilitator of Australian Women's Music Awards (AWMA); culture leader, artist and women's right activist Kween G; singer-songwriter Montaigne and Founding Director of AWMA, Vicki Gordon.

First, a brief insight into the importance of this event for me - as a passionate female performer who started as a hip hop dancer and developed into a hip hop rapper/singer, I have had up close and personal experiences of the pervasive inequality in the entertainment industry. This culture of inequity and unfair treatment has been part of my hard earned progress, starting in the late '80s through to today. All cloaked by the industry as advancement by 'merit'.

As introductory speaker Vicki Gordon showed, statistics support my experience. She introduced the event with academic research, highlighting our, to be frank, pathetic female presence as professionals in the Australian contemporary music industry.

She cautioned there are many unknowns because the arts is one of the least researched in this area. A report by Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) demonstrated that male advantage is pervasive in the Australian arts industry.

"Men are just not used to giving up space for us," Gordon said.

"It's not that they don't want to give it up, they just live in such a place of privilege that they've never had to think about it."

Unfortunately, women represent only one-fifth of songwriters and composers registered with the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA AMCOS), despite making up 45% of qualified musicians who work in music.

Female creatives still earn less than male counterparts and get less air time on radio. As a consequence, they are consistently outnumbered by men on top radio annual top charts of songs and albums. Music festival line-ups reflect this inequality. They are dominated sometimes or entirely by male lead acts here in Australia and internationally.

The lack of women throughout the industry is stark: The demise of women on the stage in the USA and UK. Our presence is insignificant in the most prestigious awards including the ARIA Awards, The Js, and the Australian Independent Record Association. Only 28% as key senior roles in organisation. No women on the ARIA board. 

"I left the sports world because i didn't like the competition. Music isn't a competition," Montaigne said. 

"We are all different and I'm friends with Amy Shark and others because we can all learn from each other."

The powerful message of this event was to acknowledge the need to carry the standard in changing these results by becoming assertive. That means setting and supporting standards that spread awareness on resetting the industry.

ET20 Talks: The Elefant In The Room Feat.
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