The music industry is risking losing talent and diversity unless it improves employment of parents and carers, according to new research.
A survey of over 2,500 workers – including more than 1,000 people from the music business – was conducted last summer by Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) in partnership with Birkbeck, University Of London. It found that parents and carers are far more likely to leave the industry than those without caring responsibilities, leading to a drain in talent and reduced diversity in the performing arts.
Former BASCA CEO Vick Bain, who’s now on the board of PiPA, called on labels to be more “proactive” on the issue.
Bain told Music Week: “There’s a real issue with a lot of companies being very reluctant to offer people – and they’re mainly women – who have family and other caring responsibilities any flexibility. I know of women who have asked to do job shares and it’s been turned down.
“I know from personal experience as a parent and as an employer in the music industry, that with a little bit of will and imagination you can totally make these things happen. It’s not a negative for companies that do this – the positive [result] is that you get really experienced, well-qualified loyal workers who give more when they are there.”
Professor Almuth McDowall, from Birkbeck’s Department of Organisational Psychology, said: "We are witnessing parents and carers pushed out of performing arts careers due to low wages, lack of job security, fears about long term prospects and a difficulty to combine their work with other roles in life.
"The sector could benefit from a cultural shift towards sustainable, flexible and inclusive work practices including increased availability of Shared Parental Leave. Other sectors can also learn from this research as zero hour contracts and precarious working are becoming normalised we need to better tend to the needs of the self employed."
Singer Paloma Faith (pictured) said: "We’ve all got our own paths to follow and we have to respect each other's choices. A choice between having a family or working as a musician isn’t a choice. As an industry we’ve got to find a way to fully embrace and support people to keep working at every stage of their lives. For many that includes looking after other people, whether it’s kids, relatives or each other. The richness of that experience can only enhance the music we make.
"The PiPA survey shows how hard people, especially women, are having to work to stay in the business. There are things we can do to make it easier and now is the moment to stop, listen and take action.”
The research was funded by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, Help Musicians UK, Sadler’s Wells and SOLT/UK Theatre.
We are witnessing parents and carers pushed out of performing arts careers
Professor Almuth McDowall
PiPA co-founder Cassie Raine added: "Our research shows the difference that family friendly working practices could make to our industry. There is an urgent need to remove systemic barriers to work and to support and retain experienced and talented people.
"The industry-designed PiPA Best Practice Charter is a practical solution to addressing tangible barriers to work for many, not just those with caring responsibilities. The more organisations that sign up the closer we’ll be as an industry to building a people-centred culture that works for everyone. At a time when the industry is acutely aware that action needs to be taken to increase diversity, changing practice to enable us to retain experienced men and women is crucial.
"We are thrilled to announce Arts Council England funding to expand into Dance, Music and Opera, develop regional networks and provide practical support and resources to enable Arts organisations to work together in scaling up this work."
Click here to read manager Vicky Dowdall on her experience of keeping her pregancy a secret because of her concerns about being treated differently in the music industry.