Viewpoint: Why support for working parents is vital to the music biz

Viewpoint: Why support for working parents is vital to the music biz

They say parenthood is our most important role in life. If we choose it. I’m not a mum, but working for Live Nation brings with it a wealth of options should I choose that path.

I know our CEO values family, diversity and balance, resulting in a range of global programs addressing parity in our workplace, along with sincere support from senior leaders who truly get our focus on diversity.

However, as the unofficial office Captain of Political Correctness at this particular moment in history, my job gets juicy. Under the diversity lens there’s Brexit, He Who Must Not Be Named and the unimpressive reality that white artists have had more success than black artists at the Grammys for the last five years.

When we zoom that lens in on our industry specifically, we have rather grounding facts to address. Last year, UK Music’s Workplace Diversity survey revealed, unsurprisingly, that the more senior roles become in the music industry, the fewer women we see. And (spoiler alert!) we know why.

Firstly, there’s the confidence conundrum; women will put themselves forward for a role if - and only if - they feel 80% sure they’re up to it, while our male counterparts only need to feel 30% sure they’re job ready.

Secondly there’s parenting.

Most companies see a decline in women reaching more senior roles, as career progression to director or VP level often coincides with their child bearing years.

Let it be stated that this conversation is not about finger pointing – it’s a cultural norm. And, thank the Lordess Beyoncé, the needle is moving in a positive direction. It’s sluggish but it is moving.

If we peer into perceptions around parenting, there are some themes worth noting. On one hand, we rightly celebrate the working mums of our beloved industry.

These women achieve their goals at home, at work, on stage and backstage. They keep their shit together and usually don’t look too shabby either. God forbid.

On the other hand, we also rightly celebrate the working women in music who are not mums.

These women too achieve their goals at home and work whilst cleverly meeting our cultural expectation to look outstanding at all times.

But did they only reach these upper echelons of brilliance and success because they didn’t have kids? And what about our ever-working dads? Do they feel celebrated? Supported? Do we acknowledge them and ask how they’re managing?

Call me a crazy, hormone-fuelled female, but it seems we’re measuring success differently.

Holly Blackwell is frontwoman of rock band The Lovely Eggs with her husband Dave. Determined to maintain their careers, the partnership took their baby on the road.

Consequently, their fans expected the pair to mirror their “parent” status on stage with less rock and more twee music, and were pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case.

As the couple remained faithful to their roots, Holly affirmed her new role as a working, touring, performing mum in music.

“I only want to be accepted as a good performer. Most women don’t want to be judged on the fact they’re a mum, but on the fact they’re great at what they do.”

And what about the logistics of touring whilst breastfeeding? Would she do it again with another baby literally on the boob as she walked to her sound check? “Absolutely”.

The point is, whether you’re working for a company who has policies in place because it’s the law, or you’re in a rock’n’roll band expressing breast milk backstage, it’s our perceptions that need a friendly-but-firm tap on the shoulder. Aligning our aspirations for parents as an industry starts with equality.

So, where can we make some quick wins? The APPG’s Women And Work report has revealed that Shared Parental Leave (SPL) doesn’t necessarily add up financially for most couples.

If the government equalises statutory maternity pay and statutory shared maternity pay, couples won’t be penalised as heavily. Tick. 

In the office, let’s truly normalise flexitime – when we stop bloody talking about it and make it happen, we will shift our collective cultures monumentally. Tick.

On the road, support funds like the Women Make Music grant help women both on and off stage fulfill their dreams.

Companies leading the diversity charge are creating formalised return-ships to help promote re-entry into the workforce for parents – there’s serious ROI in these initiatives, not to mention tax rebates from the apprenticeship levy. Google it.

Educate everyone, at all levels, on the value of a diverse industry. Bias and perception, whether conscious or unconscious, will always be present – it’s how our brains work.

At Live Nation, we too are exploring these options. We’re also honing in on recruitment, culture creation, mobility and leadership – our aim is to generate a global wave of inclusion.

But our industry needs to start making these changes yesterday. Yes, these things take time. Yes, they also take effort. And yes, they’re worth it. Celebrate everyone.

Story By: Genevieve O'Neil
Director of Diversity, Live Nation Entertainment

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