Stéphanie Gembarski is coordinator of issues linked to equality, diversity and artistic and cultural practices at FEDELIMA (national federation which gathers places and projects dedicated to popular music throughout France). She talks about the creation of the federation, its challenges and the development of gender equality in the contemporary music sector. She is also the coordinator of "Wah! ", a mentoring scheme for women who work and create in contemporary music.
Updated on 09/02/2022
FEDELIMA has existed since 2013. Can you tell us about the origins of this national federation?
It was born from the merger of two previous federations in the field of contemporary music: Fédurok and the Fédération des Scènes de Jazz. We were already working together on different subjects (participative and shared observation, co-development of public policies, social and charitable economics, etc.) and FEDELIMA allowed us to merge these common projects and to create a federation with a wider remit and scope.
What are the principal aims of FEDELIMA?
First of all, we have a mission of observation, analysis and research. We help to give structure to the sector through our relations with other federations, public partners, etc.
We also offer resources in certain areas specific to our sector: sustainable development, equality, diversity, cultural action, amateur practice, the professions and structures of contemporary music venues, etc.
Finally, we support our members and act as a link between the State, the Ministry of Culture and local authorities on issues of cultural policy and regional cultural dynamics.
What role does FEDELIMA play with regard to issues of equality and diversity in this sector?
At the end of 2015, we carried out a study on permanent employment in contemporary music. We identified the professions with a large gap in accessibility for men and women: general management, programming, technical professions, artists. As a result, in 2017, there was an initial roadmap from the Ministry of Culture with the identification of different issues and possible levers to bridge the gender gap in culture. Our discussions also involved FELIN (Fédération Nationale des Labels et Distributeurs Indépendants) which had just launched a mentoring programme for female entrepreneurs in the music industry. So in 2019, we launched a career development mentoring scheme, Wah! - mentoring to support women working and creating in the music industry.
What are the main difficulties faced by female music professionals?
Although there is diversity in the live music sector if we consider people working on a permanent basis, certain roles are still male dominated, particularly those with a high social value: management, programming and the technical professions. This can be an initial obstacle: women apply less. There are also structural and societal obstacles. As far as working hours are concerned, these jobs can also be at odds with a family structure that still relies heavily on women and can limit their availability in the evening, when concerts take place.
Can you present the "Wah!" mentoring scheme?
The second edition of the Wah! mentoring scheme began last June with a group of 28 women for a period of 12 to 14 months. On the one hand, there are 14 pairs of experienced female professionals who will support younger women in their activities. Each pair defines its objectives and its relationship methods over the year. They are offered tools to facilitate contacts and exchanges, with an ethical framework and reciprocal commitments. On the other hand, during the same year, we meet for six two-day sessions in order to collectively share different workshops and time for discussion of professional practices and gender equality in contemporary music.
How do you see the scheme developing over the coming years?
We have a long way to go, but things have already changed in recent years. Women, and society as a whole, are more aware of these issues. We work in continuous consultation with the participants to help the system evolve. For this second edition, we have therefore included a new profession with very limited involvement from women: accompanists of artistic practices and projects.
Why have you chosen not to make this a mixed-sex scheme?
It is conceived as a tool and a temporary working space. For one year, non-mixed status allows freedom of speech without having to justify oneself. It is a space for mutual support and sisterhood.
Are there other flagship initiatives aimed at promoting the place of women in this sector?
There is the "Wah!" resource platform, which has made it possible to promote numerous initiatives in favour of gender equality in music and to provide the sector with tools to deal with these issues. Since June 2021, we have also been experimenting with another scheme, Wah'ts up!, a circle of sisterhood, support and analysis of professional practices for 8 women who are working in a management, co-direction or general coordination position in contemporary music for the first time in their professional career
We are also working with our members on the very low numbers of women musicians in the regions working in autonomous musical creation outside of teaching programmes. The other subject that concerns us is the diversity of technical teams and the low prevalence of female technicians, particularly in sound engineering in contemporary music.
Since 2013, what progress have you observed on the issues of diversity and equality in the contemporary music sector?
There has been progress, particularly in terms of collective awareness, taking into account gender equality issues, and the fight against sexist and sexual aggression, but there are still very few women in management or programming positions, technical management or sound engineering. Thanks to the Wah! scheme, some women are less hesitant to apply. The changes are difficult to quantify. The observation from the various editions of our programmes is that, thanks to these spaces, women are evolving professionally. In terms of legitimacy too.
What are FEDELIMA's international projects?
We are co-founders of a network of 17 countries in Europe called Live DMA, which works to structure European cultural policies. Round tables are organised, and common frames of reference are identified. One example of a shared project is the "Open Club Day", which allows all the members of the networks to offer a day of visits and meetings with professional staff at their organisation. It is a way of highlighting the networks and their members on a European scale.
There are also discussions on sustainable development: for example, with the "Digital Safari on Sustainability", cultural venues in Europe that have implemented ecological approaches organise virtual tours.
Stéphanie Gembarski was invited by the Institut français for a workshop about contemporary music, during the 2021 MaMA Festival. Her speech was about "how to foster the position of women in actions for the contemporary musics."
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