How are we challenging gender bias in music technology and design?

Action is in place but there is still a ways to go.

Over 200 artists, record companies and artist managers have launched a new initiative to boost the number of female producers, engineers and mixers. The Recording Academy's Producer and Engineering Inclusion Initiative, announced Friday February 1, calls on executives hiring producers and engineers for a recording session to consider at least two females, and to consider the advantages of gender diversity when deciding whom to mentor. The artists included Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga, Ryan Adams, Pharrell, Quincy Jones and Max Martin. No woman has ever won a non-classical Grammy as a producer, while only three have picked up a trophy for engineering.
Gender bias in audio gear has also been debated in recent months with the release of two products “made for women". Germany’s RME produced a “female” version of its Babyface audio converter called the Ladyface, which was bright pink and a glossy metal pink bag, while another Taiwanese company MIDIPLUS released a mirror interface that resembled a make-up box. A report into gender bias in music technology by Dr Bridget Johnson, a senior lecturer and major coordinator of music technology at Massey University, said companies should drop the gimmicks and think about “a really diverse range of artists in a way that focuses on the work they produce.” She added, “I think on some level you could argue that the technology itself isn’t biased, but I believe it’s impossible to separate the technology from the society that encouraged its development and use. So whilst maybe there is nothing intentionally inherent within the physical tool, the years of biased design, development, and use of the tool are embedded within it.”
Guitars are going through design changes too. Last October, research by guitar maker Fender found that 50 per cent of new guitar players are women. The electric guitar was invented in 1931, and has been designed by men since, which is why it remained uncomfortable for women to play. It was only in 2016 when St. Vincent (aka Annie Clarke) designed the first guitar for the female body. She said, “I wanted to design a tool that would be ergonomic, lightweight, and sleek. There is room for a breast. Or two.”  She no longer need to tour with a chiropractor, and also found her personally designed guitar enhanced her stage presence. “The guitar would cut across one of the best features of the female body, which is your waist,” she said.