Student Advocates for Female Representation in Audio Industry

WASHINGTON – Gabriella McDonald, a 20-year-old American University student, has a vision for the future of the audio engineering industry – and that vision is female.

McDonald is the Vice President of the AU club, Women in Audio. The club seeks to raise awareness of women’s contribution in the audio engineering industry while also fostering an environment to help support women interested in audio careers on campus. Audio engineering jobs include sound technicians, recording engineers, sound designers, audio editors and more.

“Basically this club is about visibility and support,” said McDonald. “We try and inspire more girls to pursue their dreams in audio because a lot of people don’t even know you can get a degree in audio, let alone girls.”

McDonald herself is an audio production major with a focus in music. She always knew she had an interest in music and wanted to foster that passion, but only recently started her audio industry career when she first saw the recording studios at AU. After graduation, she hopes to defy the mold and become a songwriter as well as a studio engineer.

As of today, the AU Women in Audio club is a year old and has over 30 active members. The group meets regularly to talk about their own experiences in the industry as well as reach out to the D.C. community to spread awareness about the gender imbalance.

“You’re facing a really, really male dominated field. So it’s kinda like, if you separate yourself, you become an activist anyway, whether you want to or really not.” said McDonald. “Women in Audio itself is activism because it acknowledges a separation and the disparity between men and women in the audio industry. We don’t do any protests or anything like that necessarily, but I feel like us speaking out against the disparity is just having the club to start with in the first place.”

Gabriella McDonald talks the audio industry in one of American University’s mixing suites.

=McDonald’s biggest obstacle isn’t blatant sexism, but rather, the pressure she feels to represent her entire gender.

“Sometimes when [you’re] in a classroom where it’s 15 other guys and I’m one of two girls, you feel like you are a representative of a whole gender when you’re in class,” said McDonald. “So [when] you say something kinda stupid, or you say something that you don’t know about it’s like, I don’t want to be a bad representation of my gender. So sometimes I just don’t speak up even when I want to.”

Women in Audio’s main fundraising focus as of today is to get the club off the ground as well as to host events. One event they recently participated in was sending their club to South by Southwest (SXSW).

SXSW is a festival that converges the film and music industries by hosting professional showcases, screenings, exhibitions, panels and networking opportunities, according to their website. The club attended events such as songwriting panels, DJ workshops, concerts and women in audio networking events. Though the event was great for seeing more visibility in their desired fields, there was still a blatant disparity, according to McDonald.

“I saw one female technician the entire time I was there. I went to 10 shows and there was only one female technician at one of the shows, and the lead act was female,” said McDonald, shaking her head. “Considering there are so many female audio technicians at this festival it was like ‘why is there only one?’ when there was so many women there that can do the job.”

However, McDonald and the rest of the Women in Audio club are trying to change this reality. They state the club itself is the first important step in overcoming the imbalance in the audio industry.

“I think Women in Audio is a good start to try and combat this disparity because for me personally, it helps knowing that I’m not the only representation of my gender for women,” said McDonald. “I feel like a way to help solve some of these issues is to let women know that you can be in this space and it’s fine, you’re allowed and wanted here.”

McDonald is still hopeful as she looks towards the future of the audio industry. When reflecting on her college career as an audio engineer, she has a word of advice for women looking to follow in her footsteps.

“If this is what you want to do, just do it,” said McDonald. “Don’t ever let the room full of guys stop you.”

 

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