HCR gender balance update, and a CeReNeM Keychange pledge

It’s been a bit more than two years since we made our commitment to reach a 50/50 gender balance across all the composers represented on the Huddersfield Contemporary Records (HCR) label by 2022. The background for that original commitment from June 2017 can be found here, and an update from 18 months ago can be found here.

I wanted to take a moment to give some updated statistics on our efforts, and also to announce an extension of those efforts to cover a much wider range of our activities at CeReNeM as part of a new pledge towards the Keychange project initiated by PRS Foundation.

As outlined in the June 2017 post, HCR’s gender balance after its first eight years of existence was a disappointing 26/74. We acknowledged that to meet our 50/50 target, our releases through 2022 would need to actively redress the imbalance through a roughly 75/25 gender distribution. Since most of our 2018 projects were already in progress in mid-2017 (indeed the gender distribution initially dropped to 24/76 by the end of 2018), 2019 was really the first year where we’ve been able to see some of the impact of our efforts.

After the release of two upcoming discs in mid-November, our updated gender distribution across our catalogue at the end of 2019 will be 36/64. So, progress.

Percentage of female- and male-identifying composers represented on the HCR label at the end of 2018 and 2019

The three releases in 2019 have a 60/40 distribution, and that positive trend continues through the discs planned for release in 2020, which are 70/30. We’re still not quite hitting the necessary 75/25 target to meet our ultimate goal of 50/50 across the label’s full catalogue by 2022, so our progress remains more incremental than I’d like, but at the very least it’s clear that our commitment to these targets is making a positive difference.

The place where that’s not the case, however, is with the statistics for the percentage of overall recorded time credited to female composers across the label, which at the end of 2019 will still be a rather dismal 15% across 22 releases. That statistic is somewhat misleading because of the works included on Kathryn Williams’ forthcoming disc Coming Up For Air, in which all pieces are limited to a single breath, but it does still illustrate that we need to be incredibly cognisant of questions of scale and scope for the works by female composers that we publish through the label.

One clear downside of our target is that it prioritised numbers of composers, which almost guaranteed an imbalance of scale/duration as we worked to meet our 50/50 objective. It’s a shortcoming that we’ll be addressing in future releases.

One more update:

In the March 2018 ‘follow-up’ post linked in the first paragraph above, I discussed some of our other efforts to promote better gender balance across CeReNeM’s activities, including through our guest lecture and guest performer series, and through some of the changes we made to our teaching curriculum. This past June, the excellent and influential Keychange initiative, which was started by PRS Foundation to encourage music festivals to commit to reach 50:50 gender balance in their programming by 2022, was expanded to include a much wider range of organisations, including educational institutions, record labels, publishers, concert halls, etc.

I’m pleased to say that this week CeReNeM has joined as a Keychange signatory. Our pledge, which can be found here, is the result of a consultation process with the CeReNeM Directorate and the Directors of the Creative Coding Lab and Electric Spring festival of electronic music. It formalises some informal practices that we had in place already, but more importantly it generated several very useful conversations that identified some areas that we felt needed more work, including refining our original HCR pledge to incorporate language about named soloists/performers/artists. As has been the case with the HCR work thus far, the public accountability that this pledge creates is important, so we will continue to periodically report statistics on our efforts.

We’re committed to this work, and while we’re pleased that we’ve made some progress we’re also aware that there’s still quite a lot of work to do.