21st April 2021

Competitive Women and Misogyny: Changing the Culture takes Work

Competitive Women
Susan Williams

This year I planned to be more active in my mentorship and volunteer roles, mostly to break up the monotony of teaching the same thing every single month. Volunteering helps me feel worthwhile, and like I’m doing something meaningful with my life. I have put a lot of energy into these efforts, I believe in what I am doing, and I know that I am helping younger people on their journeys. Currently, we are organizing the SoundGirls Orlando Expo 2019 set for July 13 at Full Sail University. It’s a lot, and I am super excited about helping host this event!

Diversity is the key to survival; this is a fundamental aspect of any ecosystem.

If you look around and see a bunch of people who look and think exactly like you, how are any of you adding something valuable? An aspect of being more active in my community is the sheer amount of people that I am deliberately exposing myself to at a higher frequency. This year has been the year of Confrontational Assholes; we will call them CA going forward. There are two examples that stand out to me from this year of hustling and promoting *the cause* of equality in the industry.

Story Time, Folks

I was a vendor at an industry expo; it was my first time doing this. I have been to many expos and shows, so I know the deal, but it’s still exhausting for me to speak to a ton of strangers all day. Most responses from people at the expo (predominantly male, which I expected) were humoring me, and I felt mild amusement from them. That’s fine because there were ten women who were so excited that SoundGirls exists it was worth it, that’s our target audience.

I know I am not changing any minds who don’t want to be opened. I am helping connect people to a growing network of resources and allies. As I am speaking with a woman who works in marketing for an entertainment technology company, another person (CA) comes up to ask us, “What is this all about?” I give my spiel. His gloriously clueless response is forever burned in my memory:

“Well, you don’t see women working in this industry because they can’t wear high heels to work.”

He was referring to the broadcast industry. The two of us glanced down to our *flat* shoes in astonishment. “Well, there are many women who are working in a variety of technical positions who seem to do just fine with whatever shoes we choose to wear, and that comment is why we are working to promote awareness and establish allies in the industry,” I exhaled, exasperated.

The looks exchanged between me and the other woman were priceless, we had a shared silent moment of “Jesus Christ; this is literally why we are doing this and how clueless is this guy?!” He seemed to have that comment locked and loaded just to piss me off. Grace and manners got me through that one. It was worth it, I tell myself, for the people who I can reach and help find some amazing resources.


My second CA incident this year comes from a panel on Women in the Entertainment Industry hosted at my university. I was excited to attend, as these things are my jam. One of the comments that stood out to me explained that women seem to lack confidence and that they don’t get promoted or recognized because they are afraid to stand up for themselves. After listening to what I felt was a lot of women-blaming, which is my interpretation of some of the panelists’ comments, they had a Q&A.

My question was formed around how the panelists suggest we handle those situations, rather than accepting abuse in the workplace. I prefaced with my position, job, etc. and gave a personal example from when I worked on a cruise ship almost a decade ago, and my production manager called me a “stupid white bitch” during a rehearsal. How do we handle that situation and still have confidence in the workplace? One panelist’s response was, “You need to quit that job,” which I replied was not always an option. Another panelist went OFF on me. Her response was fueled by aggression and blew me away. I wasn’t ready for a woman, a perceived ally, to tell me in front of my peers that I am clearly incapable of being a mentor to others because I carry around insecurities and damage from my past. Completely shocked, and with attempts to rebuff extinguished by more bullying, I did what seemed the best in the situation. I said nothing else and sat down.

She very loudly proved the exact point I was asking for a solution to, which was that when women ask for help or guidance, we are often shut down or dismissed.

The same thing happened when I went to the director in response to being called names by the PM; I was dismissed. They were buddies, so it was brushed off. Too many successful women blame other women for not trying hard enough. Women Don’t Need to Lean In

Several women came up to me after the panel, which I considered leaving early but did not want to show weakness. They expressed outrage at the panelist’s response and correctly understood my point of “your reaction is literally what I am talking about.” THOSE women are allies, and I hope they know that I appreciate their comfort and support. I’ve done some additional research because I still hadn’t gotten an answer to my question. How do we handle adversity when faced with bullying or aggression in the workplace, when no one is listening, and a clean escape is not an immediate option? I defer to a quote that I found within this article, “9 Keys to Handling Hostile and Confrontational People.”

“Don’t take anything personally…What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Angel Ruiz

Empathy is, once again, a valuable tool. We are not excusing the behaviors of others, instead taking the time to control the only thing we can: our own reaction and behavior. There is so much more wisdom than I have space to include here, if this is helpful to you, please find this article as well: “Agreeing with the Four Agreements.” There are many more resources referenced, and I am just now going down this rabbit hole.

During Infocomm 2019, I had the privilege of attending the AVIXA Women’s Networking Council, hosted by Shure. This was a lovely, positive, and hopeful event with a keynote speech given by Shure’s CEO Christine Schyvinck. She explored the trends of women working in STEAM positions and incited a call to action for us to promote and cultivate young women’s interests in these careers.

The women I met there made an effort to get up and be presentable at 7:30 am, and Christine inspired us to take our energy and efforts to help move the next generation. This is why I give a shit about what I do; this is why I will handle whatever confrontational person I encounter.

What we are doing now matters to the future generations, we can shame people in public for having bad experiences, or we can lift them up to be greater and learn from those times instead.

More Resources for An Inclusive Industry

Mother Dirt

Article by SoundGirl: Susan Williams

SoundGirls Profile

Another great article by SoundGirls: The Power of An All Woman Team

Follow SoundGirls on Instagram, Twitter

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The mission of SoundGirls.org is to inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio. Our mission is to create a supportive community for women in audio and music production, providing the tools, knowledge, and support to further their careers. SoundGirls.Org was formed in 2013 by veteran live sound engineers Karrie Keyes and Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato and operates under the Fiscal Sponsorship of The California Women’s Music Festival, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. In 2012, Karrie and Michelle participated in the “Women of Professional Concert Sound” panel at the AES Conference in San Francisco. The panel was hosted by the Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) and moderated by WAM founder Terri Winston. Terri brought together five women working in live and broadcast audio. The groundbreaking panel (which also included Jeri Palumbo, Claudia Engelhart and Deanne Franklin), provided young women and men a glimpse into life on the road, tips and advice, and a Q & A with the panelists. More importantly though, was how incredibly powerful the experience was for the panelists. We had all been in the business for 20 years or more, yet most of us had never met before that day and within minutes we bonded like long-lost sisters. We were struck by how similar our experiences, work ethics, and passions were and wondered why our paths had never crossed and how our careers would have been different had we been there to support each other through the years. Each of us are strong on our own, but together we were even stronger and a powerful force. We were empowered. Each of us had been asked hundreds of times in our careers: Are there other women doing sound? How did you get into sound? How would a young woman go about getting into sound? Through creating SoundGirls.Org, we hope to establish a place for women working in professional audio to come for support and advice, to share our success and failures, our joys and frustrations, and for empowerment and inspiration.

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