I am 23, an intersectional minority woman, a rising entrepreneur, and a CEO.
I came from a world of possibilities, a house of chances, and a mind of effort driven results. I came from parents who triumphed adversities. The world — the industry — was going to be my runway. I am standing on its edge, my runway is twice as long, and the double-edged sword that I carry everyday is twice as heavy.
When you grow up as woman in New York City, you develop a very particular type of deafness. You hit puberty, and your ears develop Asshole-intolerance. You step out the door, and almost automatically, you switch on this deflecting deafness. It becomes your shield, and is the only way you’ll be able to withstand the eyes, the calls and the threats. This deafness allows you to live a life without running at every slight chance of danger. So why is it that upon seeing the rose colored industry I longed for, I forgot my intolerance shield and tumbled down the long runway?
This past weekend I attended a trade conference that is known to be the most well-respected and reputable marketplace for my industry. I had heard stories of intellectual exchange, network expansion and progression. What I encountered was a very polarized and fragmented collection of individuals, which presented to me a global glance at a multi-billion-dollar industry. My key takeaways of these four days are as follows:
1. A large majority of the industry still avoids evolution, and has not changed values or operational practices over the last 30 years.
2. Technology integration is valued by many as a passing trend instead of a necessary practice.
3. Real change is being driven by the forty-something-year-old individuals who see diversity, equality, creativity and iteration as our most promising solution for success.
Being the hyperaware female that I am, I was naturally drawn to the other women professionals I saw. I attended all the women-led and women specific events and counted (on one hand) the female presence on each panel and in each specialization. Music business has historically been a place where women are underrepresented. Having known that, I appreciated these specific events that were meant to bring together those who valued the female presence in such a dynamic industry. However, contrary to what some might want to believe, the reason there are women specific events, is because the majority of the industry is still run by older white males, who take a side of misogyny with their morning coffee.
These four days took my rolling strength and confidence, and quickly shook me down to a vulnerable gazelle in a sea of lions. I learned that in 2017, I am still living in a world curated by “grab her by the pus**y”-minded individuals. I met executives who saw me as powerless, “beautiful AND sort of smart (I guess).” I encountered seemingly professional meetings, with heavily sexualized undertones. So how do young women professionals break an industry of structure and objectification?
We don’t. We build a new one.
By attempting to fit strong, young women into the framework of the old industry, we result in two scenarios: The first is the “I don’t take BS from anyone” woman who acknowledges her place in this game, and plays by the rules until she wins. She sees top ranking men objectifying her and is smart enough to know that as unfortunate as this is, it will open the door she needs to finally get the opportunities her intelligence deserves. The second, and one that is all too common, is the “let me just keep quiet” woman. The woman who recognizes that her male superior is too blinded by her body to realize her best asset is her brain, drive and work ethic. She fears being fired, or losing an opportunity because of the current circumstance, so she resorts to saying nothing at all. While many women flutter between both situations, neither are truly effective, and in fact both perpetuate the very issue we are trying to combat.
We’ve seen for years the efforts of feminist trailblazers make strides of success. This is no small feat, and in reality opened the doors for my peers and I to work towards our future. Nevertheless, we are still attempting to fit a new, empowered generation of professionals under the leadership of the tyrant sexism that holds power. So let’s not fit, let’s build. Let’s create the industry we want to work in by speaking up one by one, and face our individual autocrats no matter the shape they might take. Let’s break the longstanding practice of one-too-many unsolicited comments. Let’s build individual courage, and create an industry wide shift. My identity, as I described it earlier has long influenced my daily awareness. It fills my thoughts from mundane daily tasks, to the most high stake business situations. This will never change. What I propose is for our identity to show us where our true human power lies. In all that I do, in all that I am, I am, and always will be, reminded that I am a woman.
I choose to use this double-edged sword as my most powerful weapon, and I hope you will too.