Women in Pro Audio Vol. 6: Terri Winston, Executive Director of Women’s Audio Mission
[Terri founded WAM in 2003 while she was a tenured Professor and Director of the Sound Recording Arts Program at City College of San Francisco from 2001-2011. Her love of music and the recording arts spans 25 years as a songwriter, composer, recording engineer, and producer. Winston was signed as a recording artist, engineer and producer by Polygram and BMG subsidiaries, and has shared the stage with such acts as P.J. Harvey, Pixies, Throwing Muses, Flaming Lips, Fugazi, Cake, and Third Eye Blind. She has collaborated with Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group and Greg Hawkes of The Cars and worked as a recording artist and producer for MainMan whose roster also included David Bowie, John Mellencamp, Lou Reed, & Iggy Pop. Winston has composed and produced theme music for KRON-TV's "First Cut" series, Banana Republic and for various films that have shown on BRAVO's Independent Film Channel, French Television's Cine Cinemas and major festivals all over the world. She is a founding member of the seminal San Francisco band Her Majesty the Baby, a two-time National Lilith Fair Tour finalist, has received numerous awards including an ASCAP songwriting award, Boston Music Award and Bay Area Music Award nominations, is a voting member of the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences and is active in the Producers and Engineers wing. Winston has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.]
According to this article, women account for 5% of producers and engineers—why do you feel this is?
As I said in that article, I think 5% is actually generous, but I also feel like this is slowly changing. I believe this imbalance is largely due to differences in the way men and women are socialized around technology from a young age and if this is addressed we could see significant change. At Women’s Audio Mission, we try to demystify science, technology, engineering and math at an early age with our youth program, Girls on the Mic, which offers free training for girls ages 8-18 in the recording arts. We especially like to work with girls in middle school, as we find that’s a particularly formative time for young women in developing confidence, and discovering interests in technology. They pick up audio technology very easily at this age. We train over 450 girls a year in the recording arts and hope that the confidence they gain in creating their own media projects will create a wave of future music producers and recording engineers.
What inspired you to start WAM?
I started Women’s Audio Mission back in 2003 when I was a professor of sound recording at City College of San Francisco and I was tasked with getting more women into the classes. After I got the average up to about 43%, the largest in the country, I formed WAM to as a central place to share the best practices in addressing the gender imbalance. One of the most important methods, besides having more women professors, is in using balanced training materials such as the ones we provide in our online training library at SoundChannel.org.
What do you feel are some of the best resources, online and otherwise, for women to get encouragement and support in the field? [Of course WAM is your favorite, but who else? ]
To be honest, Women’s Audio Mission is the only organization focused on advancing women in all disciplines of audio. We not only offer high quality education, but also career support, networking opportunities and loads of resources. We train over 600 women and girls in the recording arts a year in our professional studio located in San Francisco, which was actually selected for a “Best of the Bay” award in the San Francisco Bay Guardian last year. We also provide SoundChannel.org , an online library of animated, interactive audio e-textbooks, to over 6,500 men and women a year from all over the world. We have an exclusive jobs board for members where we post internships and jobs in the industry and we also offer our own internship program in which interns get hands-on experience in sessions. We recently had interns sit in on multiple sessions with internationally acclaimed clients like the GRAMMY-winning Kronos Quartet and the author Salman Rushdie.
We exhibit at the Audio Engineering Society Convention each year, increasing women’s visibility in the industry and providing networking opportunities for women at our booth and through our events, including the WAM Happy Hour party we throw every other year at AES in San Francisco and panels like the “Women of Professional Concert Sound” panel we hosted last year at AES. We’ve received enormous support and encouragement from the audio industry, and we are happy to report that they want to welcome women into audio career paths.
Within the aforementioned 5%, do you see more women in production roles than engineering roles? What about when it comes to mastering? Arranging? Songwriting? Session musicians?
We’re seeing an increase in general across the board with women entering different positions throughout the audio industry. We’ve placed over 200 women in internships and jobs since we started the organization in 2003—these positions range from live sound positions to video game sound production jobs. The video game industry is a sector where we’re seeing a lot of growth in jobs and potential—We’ve already placed two women in jobs in this sector over the past year.
What’s your take on the idea that even addressing this situation—through a blog series such as this—is a step in the wrong direction? It can be argued that discussing women in audio as if it’s some sort of big deal further cements the troubling idea that men are normal, and women are different.
I think that media exposure for women in audio amplifies the number of positive role models for women and inspires young women thinking about entering audio as a career. There are so few of us that sometimes that’s the only way we find out about each other. The more examples of women in audio we can showcase, the more normalized the idea of women in the recording arts will become for young women starting to enter the field. We also feel that it is important to note differences, rather than ignore them. Women and men are socialized differently and we believe that increasing the diversity in the industry is a very good thing—it includes and improves the representation of women’s ideas and perspectives in our culture.
WAM’s been very lucky to be featured in many media outlets, ABC 7 News, NPR, CNET, USA Today, The Huffington Post as well as the audio trade publications such as Pro Sound News, Electronic Musician and Mix, including the article you just sited. We feel it’s incredibly important to show positive representations of women in the field and let aspiring female audio professionals know that we’re here to support them.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We have an awesome and quickly growing community of over 9,000 audio folks happening on our social media networks where we share 6-8 audio tips and education sources every day. We hope everyone comes and joins the conversation. We love to hear what everyone is working on.