Women in Music Fights for Equality in the Music Industry

Bonny Dolan, chapter chair of the Women in Music Denver chapter.
Bonny Dolan, chapter chair of the Women in Music Denver chapter. Renee Schmidt
The nonprofit Women in Music, which formed in 1985 to help women navigate the male-dominated music industry and to honor the heritage of female musicians and industry workers, opened a Denver chapter a year ago. In February, the group will launch an educational program and offer workshops on entrepreneurialism and how to build a business.

The international organization, with new chapters in South Africa and Romania, is tailored to meet the needs of both beginners and seasoned pros trying to navigate the industry, a complex machine that often champions equality while functioning as a boys' club.

"There’s a perception that the industry is very progressive because of the art, but on the back end, there are still some things we're in the dark ages with," says Nicole Barsalona, president of the organization.

Women, she says, have historically been excluded from the business, and it has often been a risky workplace for them. Because so much of the industry involves contract work and multiple companies collaborating, there isn't always a clear path for employees to address issues that come up on the job, from sexual harassment to pay equity.

"It's different than other industries, because I don't always have an HR manager to go to if I'm harassed," Barsalona says.

There are also raging debates about sexism influencing how various awards are given by groups like the Recording Academy, which runs the Grammys.

But the issues go deeper than representation at awards ceremonies: With so few protections, it's hard for artists, even those writing feminist anthems and topping the charts, to actually work in the industry.

Not only do the organizers behind Women in Music want to find fixes to all these issues, but they also want to provide resources and opportunities for women interested in music through networking, educational opportunities and more. The group will start working on college campuses so that students can get an early start.

The organization hopes to eliminate the question "What do I do next?" for women trying to make it. Says Denver chapter chair Bonny Dolan: "We have help."

Membership is $10 a month; learn more about Women in Music on its website.
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