Music Education: Are we doing enough to encourage women educators?

The stats do not lie: men dominate music education roles in the secondary and collegiate levels. I, for one, do not like that.

It is an interesting situation. In a world in which we discuss equality, we still miss the mark is music education. Over the years, studies and research from across the United States show that men outnumber women in roles of teaching music in secondary and post-secondary education.

MTD Research, a school performing arts data organization, posted an interactive application breaking down male and female music educators for primary and secondary levels. Those viewing the post can toggle between General Music, Band, Choir, and Orchestra as well as public/private schools, and income based. It is included here for your preference, through use of their code sharing link. Note that for grades 9-12, males make up 79.45% of all band directors.

The reasons for the discrepancy are numerous:

Family responsibilities – stereotypes suggest women are the care-taker of the family, at least a majority of times.

Historical precedent – “men have always held these positions.”

Lack of female role models – the lack of women in these roles to encourage others to follow.

Gender discrimination – women experience negative responses and/or interactions with their male counterparts.

My questions is simply this: why? If you have not noticed, things are changing in this world. Maybe not as quickly as we wish, but things are moving forward in most cases. Women are working more and men are taking on more household responsibilities. And, there are quality female role models in director positions. Women hold positions of Director of Bands or Associate Director of Bands at universities across the nation. Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan, Texas Tech, Colorado State, Georgia, Southern Miss, Missouri, Eastern Illinois and  Eastern Michigan are just a few of the post-secondary institutions with females in these roles.

Additionally, there are many amazing woman that are leading music programs in the secondary level.

So, that leaves gender discrimination. In 2015, Kristin Coen-Mishlan published a study entitled, “Gender Discrimiation in the Band World: A Case Study of Three Female Band Directors.” The study included a teacher with seven years of experience, another with 28 years working as a high school band director, and a retired teacher with 36 years of work.

After interviews with the individuals and in a focus group, along with a questionnaire, one pattern emerged. Each participant experienced both personal and professional situations as a band director. One stated that her male principal often dismissed her concerns. Another told a story of when her group was awarded a plaque at a festival, and the presenter gave the award to the top trumpet player and not the female director. All male directors were given their awards.

We can do better. We, as music educators, are better. There is no need for this type of experience now. The quality of music demands that we, as music educators, continue to encourage all people – regardless of gender, race, or any other identifier you choose to pick – to participate in the creation of our chosen art. We need women in prominent positions in conducting. We need men as well.

Encourage each other. Share ideas, speak constructively, and praise accordingly. Men, it is time we treat women music educators with respect and equality. Repeating our old ways just because its the way it has always been done is no longer a valid reason.

Yes, we have come a long way. But, there is still a long way to go. We can do more to encourage women in music education.

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