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The music industry has often been beset by claims of sexism, with women often under-represented, under-celebrated and under-billed. So, what’s it like for the young women trying to make it in that world? As the official theme of this year’s International Women’s Day 2021 is Choose to Challenge Link opens in a new window, with women across the world encouraged to call out gender bias and inequality while celebrating the women in their life, we decided to ask three of our Emerging Stars – DYLAN, Hannah Grace and Lilla Vargen – about the inspirational female role models in their lives, whether they think female creatives have enough visibility and why they believe it’s so important women speak up and stand out.

As a woman in the music industry, what will you #ChooseToChallenge?

Hannah: I choose to celebrate other women in the industry, from songwriters, producers, managers, artists, musicians and members of crew. I have been lucky to have been supported by other women throughout my career, and I don’t know where I would be without it.

Lilla: I choose to challenge the disconnect between artists who identify as women and their performances, versus artists who identify as men and their performances. Women in music are often described as gentle, fragile and elegant, and if a woman shows any other emotion, it can be met with criticism.

DYLAN: As soon as I read this question, my mind went to, “Don’t say too much because you don’t want to annoy anyone with your opinion.” But that’s exactly what we should be doing. Annoying people with our opinions, because they matter as much as anyone else’s.

Do you think women have become more confident at challenging gender bias?

Hannah Grace

H: I do think that women have become more confident, and that’s because people are sharing their stories and are being heard and understood. We are realising that any negative experiences we have had, we often share with many other women.

D: Definitely, and I think it’s because we have so many role models paving the way for us to do it, which is so important.

L: I think women have seen the difference they can make in the industry by working together. I think if the industry positively supported men who are prepared to listen and understand, whilst amplifying the voices of women of all different backgrounds, it would encourage more women to confidently speak up.

Do you think female creatives are visible enough in the UK?

DYLAN

D: I think with the way the world is at the moment, social media has really helped creatives become more visible and has opened more opportunities for those with a smaller following. There’s always room to change the norm and open the room to more female creatives, especially in roles such as production, mixing and the number of female executives making the decisions.

H: It’s better than it was…But we have a long way to go. I find that terms like ‘female producer’, ‘female writer’ and ‘female manager’ aren’t helping the process of equality across the industry. Eventually it won’t be a novelty to be a ‘female’ in these roles. Things will gradually change as more young women believe it is a career they can pursue and succeed in.

L: I don't think they are. I think the most obvious example of gender disparity is across music festival line-ups where women are always outnumbered and under-billed. If we can start to change the live business, that will positively affect women who are already working in music.

Tell us about three women who inspire you

Lilla Vargen

H: I am inspired by so many women. First, my mother! What a woman. She’s strong, hard-working, so intelligent and incredibly kind – I am so lucky to have her. Jessica Sharman inspires me; she is a songwriter, producer and all-round wonderful human. I have worked with her so much and adore her. She has become a kind of mentor to me and I always know I can turn to her. Gabrielle Aplin is a very old friend of mine and she believed in me as an artist before anyone else did. I have only ever felt lifted up by her and am so grateful for her unfaltering belief in what I do.

L: Solange is an incredible artist. She always works outside the lines and I love that about her. Carole King – one of my favourite writers of all time. She has written some of the most timeless classics and the fact that she went from writing songs for other artists to becoming a performer herself was one of the reasons I got into music.

D: First and foremost would be my mother, which I know might sound clichéd, but this woman has managed to battle off cancer twice and is currently doing it for the third time while still being the most positive, wonderful person on the planet. If I am half the woman she is when I grow up, I will be over the moon. The second, Taylor Swift. She’s never afraid to speak her mind, despite how it may affect her career and her image. Also, she never gave up. The third would be every other woman that stands up for herself – I’m still learning how to do that, and I’m constantly being inspired by those who do.

If you could perform on stage with one of your female icons, who would it be?

L: Stevie Nicks! She is a total icon and a powerhouse. One of my favourite songwriters and performers of all time. To perform with her would be a dream come true.

D: Probably Lady Gaga, because she is the definition of iconic.

H: I have huge love for Beyoncé, I saw her live and I still can’t quite believe how incredible she was. She holds a power on stage that is very hard to put into words… It’s bigger than just one person, it’s almost like she’s performing for all of the women all over the world and we feel like a part of it.

Laura Higgins
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