“What you seek is seeking you” - Rumi
As an entrepreneur immersed in two heavily male dominated industries; music + motorsport, I often get asked what it’s like blazing trails in fields that have not historically welcomed women. The discussion regarding gender equality is one of the most important topics of modern society and in order for change to continue accelerating, it is crucial for us to address the issues on every channel possible.
This is why after pursuing both passions relentlessly for over a decade, it gives me much gratification to share my experiences and support Princess Tessy of Luxembourg and Elisabeth Herckes-Jose on their humanitarian mission this March on Women’s Day at the Sofitel in Luxembourg.
My interest in music began aged 7 when I discovered the Spanish guitar as a form of escapism from bullying in school. It’s the same reason I got into racing - a form of meditational healing to transcend my surroundings. The Spanish scales I learnt led me to the electrifying music of the Balearic Islands, which is a sound I heavily embody in my sets today. When I began my journey towards electronic music aged 15, I had absolutely no idea what I was going up against nor the dark underworld that accompanies the music industry. I just knew that touching other peoples lives through music was my calling in life. It took me many years to truly understand and accept that taking this journey would mean having to dance with the devil to fight for change in this industry, and that every aspect of my life would be under intense scrutiny doing this as a female.
The reason I say this is because it is no secret that the music industry on the whole is a notoriously tough and male dominated game to crack. Filled with objectification, materialism and a whole lot of substance and alcohol abusers who run the industry, navigating these challenges on a professional level have been incredibly tough.
Over the course of my career, I’ve had the privilege of playing in some of the best clubs, brands and festivals across the world from Earthdance Festival in Nairobi to Pacha Destino in Ibiza and The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) in London. I have been recognised by DJ MAG as a ‘fast rising, mega talented star’, yet I’ve heard outlandish statements made by world class DJs such as ‘females can’t mix music’. I’ve been physically harassed for demanding my right to get paid minimum wage, labelled as ‘irritating’ for challenging opinions because young drugged out adults running the scene found female leadership a hard pill to swallow, and sadly I have witnessed and experienced sexual harassment several times on the dance floor. It is soul crushing, incredibly tiring and detracts away from the core focus of why we do what we do. It’s no wonder many people feel give up pursuing this path. Music is a healing force and it must be treated with respect.
As our industry continues to grow at an astonishing rate and currently valued at $7.3bn (IMS Report, 2018), the fundamental themes of objectification, materialism and addictions have not changed and this is seriously concerning. What’s equally concerning is that the narrowing of the gender and pay gap is no where near matched to the growth rate of the industry.
To this day, only 5% of music producers are female and only 6 female DJs are in the top 100 list by DJ MAG. It takes a lot of courage for people to call out the taboos in our industry and it has only recently started seriously being embraced on a mass scale. Things like the #MeToo movement, Fyre Festival and Avicii’s death have influenced millions of people to wake up to horrifying subjects and expose immoral players.
Yet blatant sexualisation of women in the industry, whether it be through lyrics, music videos, live performances and photo shoots, are what spearheads many to success. How is the show of nudity supposed to make female fans feel about their bodies and men respect them? What volumes does this speak of the opportunities in the game? This is not what we write music for, our frequencies are intelligent and do not need faces or bodies to sell it.
I am happy to say that my experiences in motorsport have been nowhere near as harsh as the music industry.
Currently, although women make up a minority in the demographics of the sport, many such as Claire Williams (deputy team principal of Williams F1), have fought relentlessly to turn the wheel for others to succeed. Whilst I do not believe that women are made to feel unwelcome in the sport on the whole, the fact still remains that there is yet to be a female driver in F1 and this is unfortunate considering that women have been pioneering in this sport as early the 1900s. The oppression of women sadly stalled the majority of progress in the 20th century for decades and so the numbers for equal representation in today’s century were therefore always stacked. This is a sport that requires intense commitment from a very young age. Despite over a century of women proving their equality in the sport, today only 8% of children engaging in competitive karting are female because of the time it has taken for society to get there. However, the perception of women in motorsports is rapidly changing and I firmly believe that there will be a female in F1 in the next decade.
Susie Wolff is an exceptional example of someone changing and embodying that statistic. A former Williams F1 test driver and recent founder of Dare To Be Different, Susie’s personal mission is to empower as many females in the sport as possible, and in less than 3 years she has inspired more than 35,000 girls through her Dare To Be Different initiative.
It may be true that she and others have had to work ten times as hard to prove themselves, but at the end of the day its results that speaks volumes and lead to success in any field.
Whilst I may not be competitively active in the sport due to the huge barriers associated, I have been deeply involved with the sport for almost two decades as a journalist and an ‘autopreneur’. I am incredibly passionate about innovating around the adrenaline and innovation of the sport and run an events company exploring how the psychology of motorsports inspires leadership.
We need to do our best in ensuring tomorrow’s world does not look like today’s. Diversity breeds success and the ‘boy’s club’ mentality unnecessarily divides workplaces. We need to dig deeper to find and support female talent in every way possible. There are no longer any excuses to not eliminate inequality amongst all industries in the world.
*This article was written for Femme Et Feminite, a publication that was created especially for this event.
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Farah is a journalist, music producer, DJ and mentor. She has been at the forefront of the dance music industry for over a decade and loves to write about thought provoking musings from the underground world.