Faces of activism: Student pushes for female representation in audio industry
Gabriella McDonald hopes Women in Audio club will help overcome gender imbalance
Gabriella McDonald has a vision for the future of the audio engineering industry -- and that vision is female.
McDonald, who is majoring in audio production with a focus in music, serves as vice president of the AU club Women in Audio. The group, which has over 30 active members, seeks to raise awareness of women’s contributions to the audio engineering industry while also fostering an environment to help support female students interested in audio careers. Audio engineering jobs include sound technicians, recording engineers, sound designers and audio editors.
“This club is about visibility and support,” McDonald said. “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’s biggest obstacle, she said, isn’t blatant sexism. Rather, it’s the pressure she feels to represent her entire gender in male-dominated classrooms and spaces.
“[When] you say something kind of 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,” McDonald said. “Sometimes, I just don’t speak up, even when I want to.”
Women in Audio recently sent members to South by Southwest (SXSW), a festival that features the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries by hosting professional showcases, screenings, exhibitions, panels and networking opportunities, according to their website.
Although the festival was great for seeing more visibility in their desired fields, there was still a blatant disparity in gender, McDonald said.
“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,” McDonald said, 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?”
McDonald and the rest of the members of the Women in Audio club are trying to change this reality. She said the club itself is an important first step in overcoming the gender imbalance in the audio industry.
“For me personally, it helps knowing that I’m not the only representation of my gender for women,” McDonald said. “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,” she said. “Don’t ever let the room full of guys stop you.”
This profile is part of a series about student activists at AU written by students in Jane Hall’s Advanced Reporting class.