“Woman (music) composer” is even more rare than “women programmer”
In September, I’m going to Dagstuhl for a workshop on “Collaboration and Learning through Livecoding.” It’s mostly people who “livecode” in the musical sense and put on “AlgoRaves“, but will also include people who talk about “livecoding” in the CS education sense. I’m really looking forward to it.
But I was surprised when I looked at the list of attendees: There is only one woman that I can identify by name. I figured that music would be a more welcoming community than computer science, so there would be lots of women coming to livecoding from the music side. I asked my colleague, Jason Freeman, in GT’s School of Music, who told me that music composition is even more male than computer science! He told me about the NYTimes piece (linked below) that talks about the severe gender disparity in music composition. Jason said that GT’s Masters in Music Technology program has had 60-70 graduates so far — and only six women cumulatively (across all years).
Why is that? What’s common about music composition and computer programming that both careers would have so few women, when fields like medicine, law, and veterinary science used to be male-dominated but are now more gender-balanced?
Kirsten acknowledged that women have had an agonizingly difficult time gaining a creative foothold in classical music, whose repertory is male-dominated to a stifling degree. But, in light of the international renown of such figures as Kaija Saariaho, Unsuk Chin, and Sofia Gubaidulina, she argued that the “woman composer” no longer required special pleading or affirmative action. “Neither art nor artist is served by segregation—even if it’s well intended,” Kirsten wrote. Rather than going out of their way to boost female composers, she suggested, programmers should embrace only works that speak to them strongly, trusting that women will continue to advance.