Big Ideas

Notes from FMO meetup

Canadian Women in Music Meetup

Friday, October 17, 4:30pm

Folk Music Ontario Conference

Notetaker: Trish

Facilitator: Candace Shaw

Attendees: Enid Carol Goodman, Gabrielle Papillon, Corinne Rose, Allison Brown, Suzi Wilde, Nicole Colbeck, Emily Mitchell, Kathleen Merrett, Joanne Mill, Sarah Beatty, Mimi Shaw, Jayne Mitchell, Francine LeClair, Kristine St. Pierre, Shawna Caspi, Heather —, Leah Morise, Mike Bourgeault, Laura Spink, Terry Hart, Mary Bennett, Maryanne Gerard, Nancy Dutra, Eve Goldberg, Julie Kerr, Lea Dalgoy, Sarah Elizabeth, Amanda Rheame, Trish Murray, Rachel Barecca, Marianne Girard, Treasa Levasseur, Anita Lennon-Barlow, Tannis Slimmon, Brian Litvin, Victor Hugo Lopez, Rodrigo Muniz, Graydon James, Clela Errington…


Candace welcomed everyone, outlined ideas that are a starting point for this meeting, including the challenges we face as women in music, what we want this group to be.

Sarah Beatty: Hold a regular meetup, annually or quarterly, at FMO conference and elsewhere.  Create a contact list.

Nicole Colbeck: How do we see the gender disparity? Is it in programming? “Women in Music” – what does that mean? It brought us together.

Candace Shaw: Lineups – where are the women? Few bookers/ADs are women.

Corinne Rose: There’s a disparity – producers, sound techs, side players are mostly men – not just a lack of front women.

Kristine St. Pierre: Female producers and side-players are difficult to find.  Is there a list? Regarding festivals, there are so many men – how can we build awareness of women performers without looking self-interested?

Gabrielle Papillion: Talk to bookers/ADs about your women musician friends, advocate for them to raise awareness about them.

Shawna Caspi: There’s a lot of tokenism – “Sorry, I already booked the female artist for this year.”

Treasa Levasseur: Disparity in branding, expectations about appearance vastly different for men and women.  Why do we have to be ‘pretty’ or ‘sexy’ to have a career?

Alison Brown: Festival bookers have said to me “Girls with pretty voices aren’t our thing right now.”

Julia: There’s so much support and camaraderie in this group.  Developing awareness is important when bookers are programming – maybe we could send them a letter asking to consider gender parity?

Corinne Rose: Some people say they “Don’t like women musicians,” which is ridiculous.

Treasa: It’s okay to be bold about the way we express ourselves.

Layla: We should be mindful of who is in the room and who isn’t; what barriers are present that stop people from attending this meetup? Are there ways to enable participation from all people, eliminate the barriers?

Mike Bourgeault: As a male sideman playing with a female frontwoman, I am often approached by the sound tech to answer technical questions when they ought to be talking to the woman whose name is on the poster and whose gig it is.

Allison Brown: Going into Long & McQuade to rent/buy gear can be an ordeal – the people behind the counter will talk to any man in the room before a woman, and it’s infuriating.

Shawna Caspi: Safety is an issue.  Women can’t be as open and vulnerable as men.  Singer/Songwriters are often travelling alone, and can’t always take the same opportunities as men can due to concerns about safety.

Nicole Colbeck: There are some good things in place, like AD gatherings; we need to inject the idea of parity, whether we do it in a conciliatory or confrontation way.  We don’t need to be seperate, we need to be a part of what’s already happening.  And we need to raise awareness – where are the women producers, side players? It’s like math or science – why do women shy away? How do we encourage them?

Eve Goldberg: Amongst the female singer/songwriters in this room there are many instrumentally strong women, but the perception is that a “woman musician” is somehow lesser in skill and ability.  We need more mentorship – perhaps this group  can help organize that?

Heather: Re: Mentoring, I was brought on by Pride as a Stage Manager, was mentored and worked my way up to Production Manager, so now I pay it forward and try to mentor the women who work under me.

Kirsten Jones: Branding is tiring – I want to focus on music and musicianship without worrying so much about my appearance, like men do.

Emma Jane: I was in music, but was pushed to admin because I was a woman.  Young people need to be a part of this conversation.

Mary Anne: Age and ageism – as women age, they suffer more from ageism than men do.  We’re expected to pass the torch along to our younger colleagues, rather than keep on with it.

Gabby: Great mentoring is happening, by women, for women. Some men are allies, and useful tools.  Sometimes it takes a man’s voice for a message to get heard; other men don’t feel as threatened or attacked if they hear it from a guy.

Terry Ward: Men aren’t in on the dialogue; their perception is that the discussion is over, and that women can bring it up if they want but it isn’t really necessary. Open conversation and awareness building will help.

Mimi Shaw: Is there gender parity in pay? Is there some way to track this?

Victor: Some communities are more inclusive; it takes audacity from women to move forward.

Allison Brown: people often behave as though being a musician is a phase or a stepping stone for women, not a lifelong career.

Corinne Rose: A lot of us are taught from a young age to settle down, to be quiet and good.  We need to work to help each other to overcome this.

Suzi Wilde: We also need to be aware of the language that we and others are using about us – Emcees introduce people as ‘talented’ or ‘fabulous,’ but women often get ‘lovely.’

Clela Errington – Attach payment to mentorship, so that the skills being transferred are valued.

Mike Bourgeault: People need to understand that men don’t have to be the leaders – they can be in support roles, and that’s okay.

Marianne Girard: It’s hard to get the message across that what we do is work – because we play for work – and difficult to have people understand that we want the same kind of equality as other workplaces.


Letter to Bookers – we write a letter and all of us sign it.  It has more power and less potential for individuals to be labelled as ‘whiners.’  Even if they avert their eyes, they’ll still see the light and feel the heat of all of our fires together. Possibly set up as a petition, using an online service?

Information Gathering: let’s gather facts and statistics, where we can, of the positive effect of having women at festivals/etc. These are businesses; let’s make a business case for women artists. Look into festivals with equitable booking – ask them why and how, highlight those that are doing it right or are on the right path.  Are there other positive effects, beyond ticket sales?

Organize shows or series based around women.

Mentorship: Let’s aid each other where we can, and see about setting up a mentorship program or expanding on those that exist already.

Childcare: Let’s support and lobby for childcare at festivals and conferences.  Perhaps do some fund raising for childcare at future FMO events? Speak to festivals about what kind of childcare they have in place (if any) for artists? Make a database of babysitters/day care in different cities for parents on the road?

Learning opportunities: Provide courses or workshops in important skills like mixing sound, to fill in the gaps in knowledge that come from being shut out of certain portions of the industry when you’re younger.

Listening: Listening to each other, especially women from marginalized groups, to understand each other better and find better ways to include each other.

More Meetups: Take this idea back to your community and get local women together in a meetup – gather ideas and work on projects that relate to your regional needs.

Database of Women Music Professionals: Bookers, Producers, sideplayers, sound techs, publicists, people willing to offer mentorship or teach workshops, etc.

Advocate for Women: When talking to bookers and other music professionals, recommend women in music.

Speak to Emcees: Tell them how you want to be introduced, and how you do not want to be introduced.  Emcees are usually happy to adjust their patter.


  • Joanna Chapman-Smith

    Re: “Organize shows or series based around women.” This is an interesting and exciting step forward. We could try to start something here in Toronto (for those of us here) – and then branch to running stages at friendly festivals, or bridge to house concert tours, etc.

  • Fawn

    I am sharing this with the Yukon Women in Music group (now 16 years old!), and also in the Music Yukon newsletter this week. It’s great to see this initiative starting up. Music is a tough business for anyone to be in, and it’s interesting to see some discussion about issues that are particular to women.

    When YWIM started, there were few female performers in the Yukon, but the playing field has definitely changed since then.

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