I know this isn’t a new topic of discussion, but as a female composer currently trying to break into the industry, this is a pressing issue for me. Recently I have been thinking a lot about where my place is in the music industry as a female composer, and I have found that I am not the only one. Many other female composers have blogged, discussed and asked the same question. So what’s going on?
Film composition isn’t the only industry where this happens. It is well known that there are many careers which are male dominated industries, such as engineering, manual labour and politics, so it’s a fairly common occurrence, but why? As far as I can see, generally we live in a world where the boundaries of gender have almost entirely disappeared in most walks of life. So where are all the ladies?
When asked to name famous film composers, most people would recall Williams, Zimmer, Elfman and Horner, but where is the female equivalent of these musical greats? Many female composers are very successful in their careers, and there are a huge number of women composing for media at the moment, but most are composing for TV or smaller budget films. Most of the women who have composed for major film releases have received less recognition, or have been a relatively unknown co-composer alongside the aforementioned superstars of film scores.
One of the most worrying opinions I have read comes from John Ottoman. In an interview for The International Alliance for Women in Music, Mikael Carlsson posed this question, to which he replied:
“It’s simply been women not being viewed as having the “chops” that males have — especially when it comes to “commanding” scores, or those with aggression. The misconception is that women composers tend to be meek, less bold or daring. And if they try to do so, the prejudice against them is that their efforts are seen as contrived or forced; in other words, trying to imitate boldness and not doing it naturally. So women composers have been in a sort of “Catch 22.” Because of this, I assume there are not as many women composers even trying to get into an uphill battle because they’re discouraged being faced with a glass ceiling.”