'The F Word': An Interview with Mackinlay Ingham

Did you know that nearly 70% of professional positions within the music industry are currently held by men? And that nearly 50% of women in the music business earn less than £10,000, even though women are more likely to have a superior qualification than their male colleagues? No matter what industry you want to go into after you graduate, we all know that there are glass ceilings that need to be broken - but how do we find the courage to do this?

'The F Word' is a live music event taking place next friday, featuring exclusively female artists and run exclusively by female-identifying people, and it is working to fight inequality within creative industries, proving that gender doesn't have to be a barrier to success. We wanted to find out more, and so this week, we met with Mackinlay, our Women's Student Officer and the co-manager of the event, to have a chat all about it, why it needs to take place, and how we can empower female-identifying people to smash those glass ceilings.

Can you tell us a bit about 'The F Word'?

'The F Word' is a multi-genre, created by female students at Falmouth University. The reason we put on the gig was to raise awareness of gender inequality within the creative industries – we have a whole team of formidable staff and artists who identify as female and who believe that gender is not a reflection of ability, and therefore should be no barrier to work or leisure activities. We have an amazing line-up; we’ve got Stealing Sheep, the hotly tipped psych-folk band from Liverpool, and they’ll be supported by local talent Annie EEL featuring Staz and Olive Haigh

What inspired you to want to put on an event like this?

Obviously, as I’m the Women’s Officer, equality is something I’m passionate about. Personally, as a female manager, I go to a lot of conferences and organise events, and I never even thought about the fact that I’m one of a few females working on a team, and all the conference panellists are men. But then I went to the AIM Women in the Industry conference, and all the panellists were female – and I suddenly thought, “Why do I feel so weird?” And it was because I’m not used to the experts being female. I spoke to so many women there who are CEOs, and who are doing amazing things, but I just haven’t heard of them, and I heard horror stories of young female artists being sexually harassed in return for promotion of a gig or for management.

I became painfully aware of the fact that the way women are presented in the music industry, their hyper-sexualisation, is all down to the fact that there aren’t enough women in the higher positions – we can’t have our voices heard, and we can’t dictate the way that we’re presented in the media. Even when magazines are run by women, we’re so used to seeing women through the male gaze, so we fall into the trap too, because we’re taught that hyper-sexualised women is what sells. As women, the media gives us two options; we can either be sexualised, or an unattractive feminist burning her bra, and we’re not given another option. And that’s just not the case; so I decided to be the change that I wanted to see.

On our campus, we have so many female and male practitioners who will be going into the creative industries right here, and we’re just not being educated as to the realities of inequality in the workplace, or what we can do to change it. And that’s why 'The F Word' was born!

What challenges have you faced in setting up the event so far?

When I first went to look for females to work on the event, like female sound technicians, for example, AMATA would refer me to males, because there are no female technicians. I had to search really hard to find female practitioners; one of our sound technicians is coming all the way down from London, and that’s just totally insane. And now, I’m sitting here, as part of a team of 30+ women who are working on the event, and I know that it’s not the case that there are no female practitioners. There are so many talented women out there who could do the job just as well as their male counterparts, even with far superior qualifications, who just aren’t being hired because the industry is made up of men who want to hire other men.

What challenges have you personally faced as a female manager?

Very often people will assume I’m not on the management team. They’ll think that I’m someone’s girlfriend or someone’s PA, and I’m always quick to set them straight! But I also get this from other female managers, and it comes back to the fact that we’re brain washed as to what a woman should be. I was told by another female manager that, in order to succeed in the industry, I had to be either a bitch or a whore, and I wouldn’t class myself as either of those things. Again, my gender isn’t a reflection of my ability, so why should I force myself into one of those categories?

You do have to be extremely ballsy to work in the industry, and to work in the highest levels. To be the person making decisions, you have to be prepared and aware of the fact that when you put your foot down, you will be called a bitch, whereas if a man said exactly the same thing, he’d be called decisive.

Why do you think this event is necessary?

I think it’s necessary to catch future practitioners before they get into the industry, so they can see that there is an alternative to the way that many industries operate right now. We’re taught that we’re powerless when it comes to the music industry, because we’re just the consumers, but actually we’re the ones funding the businesses. I want to reinforce the message that we, as the future of the people working within the music industry, have the power to change it.

We need to change the language that we use; for example, we, as women, are conditioned to say things like “Can I just…” and apologise before we say anything. When I was organising this event, I felt like I constantly had to explain myself, I constantly had to apologise for the fact that it’s run only by female identifying people, but events are run by teams that are primarily male all the time. And men have never had to announce of justify that – it’s just the way that it is.

So, this event isn’t about gender. It’s about equality.

Can you talk a bit more about inequality in the music industry?

On my course, I only have one female lecturer, and I lot of the environments I work in are male dominated, such as when I’m booking bands, and their managers are almost always male. It’s extremely rare that I’ve worked on an event and my superior has been female.

It’s different in every industry, but we’ve come to the point where we’ve hyper-normalised the white male voice, so much so that we don’t even question it. But if you actually look at your industry, if you look at who directed your favourite film or produced your music, you’ll see white men, and when you start looking for it, you can’t stop seeing it.

Why is it important to build up positive communities of women?

When working under another woman, subconsciously that is the person I look up to and identify with, and I can think to myself that maybe, one day, I could be in her position. It’s so important that we, as a female community, stop working with this attitude that there’s only one seat for women at the table. I definitely have this attitude – I look around at the other women in the room and think about them as competitors and rivals. But the fact is that there isn’t one seat at the table. A man would never walk into an interview, look at all the other men being interviewed and think, “With all these men here, I’ll never get the job,” so why do we think like that?

As a woman, you feel you’re fighting other women for jobs, for men, for everything - but we need to move past this attitude. We need to work together and pull each other up, and balance out the gender inequality across industries.

Like I said, I went to a conference of women in the music industry, and that is what inspired me to put on this event. I saw all these women running companies, putting on events, and I thought, “I can do that.” It showed me that I don’t have to work for a man, and I can work for myself. Representation is so important, and we so rarely see women behind the scenes of the music industry, and so many other industries. Why would young girls think they can go into management, or science, or weightlifting, when the media we consume shows only the image of men working within these industries?

Someone once told me that if women were able to work without worrying about how they’ll be perceived or what they look like, and instead put their minds to social change, we could fix all the world’s problems in a year. I love that, and that’s why I think there’s something so powerful about working in a team of women. We’re proving that we can be successful outside of the structure of the industry that men have put in place and uphold.


'The F Word' is on the 24th of March at Woodlane Social Club, Falmouth, doors open at 8pm. Tickets are onsale NOW - click here to buy them! - and you can find out more by checking out 'The F Word' on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. See you there!