The online journal The Conversation published an article today about the under-representation of women composers in Australia’s music scene.  The sound of silence: why aren’t Australia’s female composers being heard uses statistics from  performing ensembles and Australian institutions to show that roughly 10-15% of music being performed is by women, despite the fact that 25-29% of compositions students are women.
It is a well-researched article which highlights some of the  gender assumptions still being made today, including the outrageous comments by an English journalist I mentioned in my post on women composers in March.  
The article also highlights the efforts being made by some institutions and individuals to give exposure to women composers. 
The authors  (Cat Hope, Dawn Bennet and Sally Macarthur) argue the solutions need to extend beyond academic institutions. They suggest:
  • Performance groups and organisations representing Australian composers need to let go of tradition and become more aware of gender diversity.
  • For every male composer selected for a performance or commission, there should be a representative number of female composers. Perhaps there should be a quota mandated for government funded institutions that deliver music to audiences.
  • Every music school needs to teach and include women’s music in history and performance courses, and to do so beyond a token amount.
  • Music critics and scholars need to challenge the tradition of effacing women’s music. As academic Lauren Redhead notes, this includes enhancing awareness of the patriarchal discourse.
  • Finally, there is a need for research into the working lives of composers, particularly women. Without this, it is hard to advocate for changes to funding, education and career support. 
What do you think, would mandatory quotas be effective? Or would they ghettoise women into a category of ‘other’?

Read the entire article here. It is worth a look.
One thing I’m certain about; I’m pleased the debate is continuing, particularly with the academic rigour these three authors bring to the topic.