"I feel that laws need to be put into place in order for discrimination to really properly end" POWA
I am so excited about this week's interview! I had the chance to chat too Siobhan and Ashley from POWA Scotland! We chatted about creating a more equal and diverse community within the local scene and the inspiration behind POWA!
Let's get into it...
What was the inspiration behind POWA?
Ashley: Siobhan and I set up POWA because we wanted to raise awareness of the issues faced by women in the creative industries with regards to sexual assault abuse and harassment. It brought to light in a very public way why things need to change. When the pandemic hit and the music industry went under practically overnight, a lot of women started coming forward about the horrendous experiences they had experienced in the workplace. By going public these women shone a light on the completely normalised way in which they and their colleagues were harassed, abused and assaulted, with their abusers facing absolutely no consequences.
A lot of activism began to spring up around these revelations and that’s how Siobhan and I got started. We wanted to raise awareness of the mistreatment of women within the creative industries while at the same time providing paid for work to these same women who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, financially and otherwise. We also wanted to create a safe online space where we could all discuss our experiences and come up with ideas on how to improve the industry, so that it’s a much safer place for women by the time we go back after the pandemic. We are achieving these aims by working with women artists to create songs based on their experiences which we release every six weeks through our dedicated Patreon members space. Since launching in November we have worked with four different musicians and facilitated discussions around the improvement of the music industry. It’s been really uplifting to see the amount of engagement we are getting on our members space, and the reception to music that’s been created so far has been amazing. I feel positive that we are working towards something important and that our actions will create real positive lasting change.
Is there a way that you think that as a society and a community that we can work towards creating a more equal and diverse environment within the Scottish music industries?
Siobhan: If you think about society as the music lover, the gig-goer, the person listening to Spotify on the way to work, the cafe playing your song to its customers, then it's fair to say that society really wants female artists to be treated better too. The community of feminist artits is growing and the issues we’re having in the workplace are popping up in many other industries and areas of life, so I would say that society is with us on this. Perhaps what makes music different is that artists are often presented as a product which is inevitably dehumanising and this means there’s a veil between what the industry shows about the artist, and the reality of the conditions the artist may be facing. To create more equality and diversity the myth should be shattered so that society and our community can see the truth and the reality of the current normalisation of the mistreatment of a person due to their sex, as well as the other protected characteristics of the equalities act : Age Disability gender reassignment marriage and civil partnership
pregnancy and maternity.
religion or belief.
How would you say that the scene has changed over the last few years? Do you think we are heading in a positive direction?
Groups and organisations such as the Bit Collective, the F-list, Girls Rock School Edinburgh and Girls Rock Glasgow are helping to steer things in the right direction by being present on social media and advocating for real change. These groups have been really inspiring to POWA because they provide a positive focus on women in music and unite people across their memberships and wider social media. Personally I feel that laws need to be put into place in order for discrimination to really properly end, because most of our industry operates on a freelance basis, meaning that there are no real consequences for a person when they cause harm to a woman’s career, mental health, physical safety, and general well-being. What that means is that many companies are likely to pay lip service or agree to follow policy, but not actually do it. What we need are laws protecting women from discrimination in their place of work, and we also need institutions to stand up against discrimination by actively playing a role in minimising discrimination by dealing with complaints made by women, because if they don’t deal with these complaints and set the right example, then it’s possible that the careers of women will not be sustainable, and the paygap won’t change, etc. Individual victims of discrimination or assault should not have to rely on engineering cancel culture and public online shaming of their abusers. Every victim should respond to their own experience in the way they choose is best for them, but I would like to see institutions and organizations stepping up so that women are saved from a lot of legal and mental health problems. Basically women are not only dealing with a huge amount of abuse in the workplace, but they are also expected to personally teach men how to change, without laws to protect them - it’s all a mess.
I am positive about the future, and real change is coming, but I wouldn’t say that our conditions have become more tolerable in the last couple of years. This is something that needs to start happening.
I was wondering what female or non-binary Scottish artists are you most excited about right now?
Ashley: There are so many talented women making music right now, it’s so inspiring to see what they are putting out. Here’s a wee list of who we are in to right now: Lou Mclean, Petroleum Genderloss, Rosie Bans, Khola, Josephine Sillars, Good Dog, Jenn Butterworth, Raveloe, Carla Easton, & so many more!
Is there a moment within POWA’s creation that you would say was your most rewarding experience or something that you are significantly proud of out of all your achievements?
Siobhan: It’s amazing to have gone past 65 members in such a short space of time! We are so pleased to be able to fundraise through this project so we can provide paid work for female artists at a time where they need support more than ever.
It’s unacceptable that companies and individuals are not protecting their female colleagues and this needs to be completely overturned. At POWA we are fed up of people talking about change but not actually doing anything. We want change to happen now.
There you have it! Thank you so much to Siobhan and Ashley for taking the time to chat with me! Make sure to go and check POWA out to learn more and support the amazing work that they do!
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