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‘A very low glass ceiling’: sexism and harassment rife in Australian music industry, long-awaited report finds | Australian music

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More than 50% of respondents to a long-awaited report on sexism and discrimination in Australia’s music industry have experienced sexual harassment or harm in the workplace, with the report’s authors describing their findings as confronting, but not unexpected.

The Raising Their Voices report was released on Thursday, the result of more than 1,600 interviews and survey questionnaires that asked musicians, technicians and record label employees about their experiences of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the industry.

The independent investigation was commissioned last year after a roundtable of music industry professionals was called to address mounting allegations of sexual harm, sexual harassment, alcohol and drug abuse and systemic discrimination in the industry.

Fifty-five per cent of respondents alleged they had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment and sexual harm in their career. The report defines sexual harm as “behaviour which constitutes sexual harassment, sexual assault, indecent assault and rape. It also includes attempted sexual assault, attempted indecent assault and attempted rape.”

More than one-third said the alleged sexual harassment or harm had occurred within the past five years.

Three out of four perpetrators of alleged sexual harassment were men. The most common places where the harassment occurred was at music venues (45%) followed by the office (21%) or work-related events (17%).

Almost 80% of respondents said they had experienced some form of “everyday sexism” in the course of their career, and just as many – the vast majority being women – said they had experienced workplace bullying.

The report concluded that women do not thrive to the same extent as men within the Australian music industry, and that young people and people of diverse backgrounds, particularly First Nations people, were at higher risk of harm and poor employment practices.

The report also found that women were being kept out of “key decision-making arenas that determine what music gets played and who gets signed, supported, nurtured and profiled”, affecting the industry more broadly.

Co-author of the report, MusicNSW managing director, Emily Collins, said the findings revealed a strong appetite for widespread and sustainable cultural change across an industry where outdated models of behaviour were still largely tolerated.

“Every workplace, no matter what part of the Australian workforce you’re in, should be safe and respectful,” she said.

“One of the findings is that some parts of the music industry aren’t obeying [workplace] regulations. This report provides a watershed moment for the industry. Despite the findings of the review, the fact that the review exists is a good sign.”

The 76-page report includes multiple first-hand, anonymous accounts of music industry employees’ experiences.

“No one looks at your CV, they look at your chest and your bod,” one respondent said.

“As a young single woman, you are immediately objectified and othered,” said another.

“It’s an industry built on the idea that women are entertainment … women have to work 10 times harder to prove themselves,” said another.

“I can’t progress here because I’m good at making my male manager look good. I’m too useful to him,” said one respondent.

“There is no career path. 100%, there is a very low glass ceiling. There are heaps of women at mid-tier levels, then further up, it’s mainly men,” said another.

Multiple female performers reported being mistaken for a girlfriend of a male bandmember, the report said, with many women saying they felt pressured to appear sexy, accept being paid less and put off having children, in order to succeed.

“Until the people who have been there for [many years] are gone, there’s only so much that can change, because they are the most powerful and they are set in their ways. They’re gonna have their boys’ lunches, they’re gonna have their golf days … It’s habitual almost,” one respondent said.

In July, the newly appointed arts minister, Tony Burke, told Guardian Australia he would leverage his position as employment and workplace relations minister to tackle sexual harassment and discrimination within Australia’s cultural industries.

He cited the 2021 allegations of sexual assault by singer songwriter Jaguar Jonze, and the workplace culture at major recording label Sony Music, exposed by Guardian Australia, which resulted in its long-serving chief executive Denis Handlin being removed after more than 25 years leading the Australian arm of the global corporation.

The Raising Their Voices report found that only 3% of survey participants had made a formal report alleging sexual harassment in the past five years.

The perceived lack of accountability for perpetrators was cited as a major barrier to formally reporting misconduct, the report concluded, and an overhaul of reporting and investigation mechanisms in the industry is one of the inquiry’s 17 recommendations.

A code of conduct for the music industry is also recommended, with the report suggesting that signatories would need to show they are adhering to the code of conduct before they could receive public funding from bodies such as the Australia Council.

Within the next six months, the report’s authors said they expected to see the creation of a contemporary music industry cultural reform council, which would address sexual harm, sexual harassment, bullying and systemic discrimination.

The report’s authors recommended that the council be gender-balanced and have a diverse makeup, including First Nations people, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and people with disabilities.



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