In the latest edition of Music Week we proudly present this year’s expanded Music Week Women In Music Awards Roll Of Honour. Here we speak to Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary at the Musicians' Union…
How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“There are so many talented and exceptional women on the Roll Of Honour that it means a lot. It is important to acknowledge women who’ve fought their way into pivotal industry roles and are therefore, hopefully, inspiring and empowering other women to do likewise.”
How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?
“There have been many challenges associated with being a woman in a heavily male-dominated work environment – not just in music, but in trade unions. When I started, I had to fight assumptions that I was there to make the tea when I was there to do a deal.”
Did you have a mentor or role model who helped you at that stage?
“I am lucky to have a lot of colleagues, both male and female, who have supported and championed me throughout my career. Horace Trubridge, current Musicians’ Union (MU) general secretary, encourages me, pushes me and I know has utter faith in me. At the MU, I have actually been promoted during maternity leave and I know this is not an experience that is common.”
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement so far?
“My biggest sense of achievement has to be from leading the MU’s Safe Space service. The service was set up in the early days of the #MeToo movement to get a sense of the prevalence of sexual harassment in the industry. I have personally handled hundreds of reports and have tried to offer support, validation and advice. I have successfully raised awareness and am still fighting to improve the culture of workplaces.”
I had to fight assumptions that I was there to make the tea when I was there to do a deal
What advice would you offer young female executives about enjoying a successful career in music?
“I’d say: have confidence in your abilities and stay focused on where you’re headed. Always think a couple of steps ahead. I’ve always focused not just on the next career move or promotion, but the one after it.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“One of my mentors in my 20s was the then head of talent rights at the BBC, Simon Hayward-Tapp. He asked me what I thought made a good leader or manager and I said, ‘I guess you have to ensure a separation between yourself and your team, don’t make the mistake of being their friend’. He said ‘Absolutely not. One of the best managers I know is friends with his team. He goes to the pub with them and it doesn’t in any way impede his ability to lead them.’ I still think about that a lot and find it strangely comforting.
On so many levels, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented change in the music business and the world itself – what’s been the biggest lesson you’ll take away from it?
“What a horror show 2020 has been! For the Union, we never thought we’d see a crisis like this. It has been awful to witness the impact of Covid on individual musicians and I’ve heard some really haunting stories of hardship. The only lesson really, and it’s no comfort yet, is that we can’t take anything for granted. What would all of us give to be at a gig? Next time we do that, we will really appreciate how precious the live experience is.”