International Women’s Day may have passed for 2023 but at Ancoris, we've spent the whole month celebrating! This particular observance is dedicated to celebrating the amazing achievements of women from across the globe. It also stands as a call to action to truly recognise women as equals, 365 days a year.
As part of our extended celebrations, we've been taking this month to sit down with some of our female colleagues to get to know them a bit better. Just before March and our IWD celebrations draw to a close, we're getting to know Lily, our Order Admin Assistant, a little bit better.
Right, Lily, how did you find yourself at Ancoris?
I studied as a classical singer and I graduated during the height of COVID when what I had trained to do was illegal (!) because you weren't allowed to perform music. I started off privately teaching music in the evenings. I absolutely loved it but as a very social person, I really missed having colleagues and a place of work to go to. This led me to apply for the order admin assistant role at Ancoris as a day job and I was successful! It was great joining Ancoris because they didn't worry that I didn't have any office experience. They have just been happy to teach me and let me learn on the job which has been great – I definitely got a good break.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
To me, IWD gives us a really nice platform to be vocal about the everyday things that are still happening and still need to be highlighted. Yes, we’ve mostly overcome issues like women’s right to vote but it doesn’t mean that all the work is done – far from it. Some people may think of the everyday things as relatively minor issues but these are things that can snowball into larger issues that lead to situations like a distinct lack of female composers or female representation in STEM.
Did you ever think you'd end up working in the tech space?
No, not at all! I’ve never been naturally tech-savvy so I didn’t think I’d be any good within tech. However, now that I work in it, I’ve really enjoyed getting stuck in and I’ve learnt so much along the way. Thanks mainly to Ancoris having such an open and encouraging environment, I really think that tech is an industry that I can thrive in.
What kind of tools and initiatives do you feel that Ancoris has in place to help you be more tech-savvy?
I've done some training with Google University and Salesforce Trailhead. It is great to have opportunities like this where your employer is happy to invest in solid tools and initiatives to help you professionally develop.
What is the classical music world like in terms of gender balance?
Speaking from a production point of view, the gender balance depends on the cast you need to stage a show. If an opera has ten male characters and five female characters, people are going to hire accordingly. Generally speaking though, I'd say, it's more competitive for women. So, for example, on my course there were thirteen women and three men.
Talking about opera, I've noticed it often feels like there are traditionally more parts for men than women. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
I think so. If you look at the history of music, most of it had men performing female roles. Women only really started appearing around the 1600s and they still had to share their parts with men. When it comes to the composition side of things, most composers have either been men, or women working under male aliases. Most composers being men meant they were more likely to write for characters that they could relate to; unsurprisingly, a lot of these were also men. You’ve also got to consider it in the context of vocal ranges; it was really hard to come across countertenors (the highest of the male vocal ranges that crosses over into the female vocal range) so they were expensive to hire. It was easier and cheaper to churn out male characters.
Nowadays, are you seeing more female parts in operas or at least more parts being adapted for female voices? i.e. are there more opportunities for female performers to perform essentially?
In terms of more female parts, I’m not sure if there’s been a noticeable shift. However, there has definitely been a huge shift in the investment in female composers. In America, they’ve created some major programmes in which they go into schools and run composition courses specifically for girls. Writing music involves a lot of maths and with maths tending to be a male-dominated world, it generally leads to a lot more men than women ending up in composing. The lack of female representation in STEM affects the music world too!
Do you have any advice for anyone trying to adopt a more equitable approach to life?
Am I advising women or men?
In the spirit of #EmbraceEquity, that’s a great question! You can advise whomever you wish.
For women, I think we’ve got to believe in ourselves a lot more. It’s so much easier said than done but if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s going to be hard for others to believe in you too. Also, we can’t let other people’s opinions define us. For example, someone may call you “stroppy” or “bossy” but it doesn’t mean that’s the truth and therefore we cannot unnecessarily take on those labels as they can be quite damaging. Especially if these labels are coming from people who can’t appreciate the challenges you may be facing. We’ve all got different circumstances to deal with. Sometimes it’s easier to consider this for other people and so be more empathetic towards them but we have to remember to give ourselves this same consideration too.
For men, I’d say actually listen and believe women when they are saying something. Listening is important but believing a person is even more important. There are going to be some things that men don’t have experience of that women do (and vice versa) so when these things are presented to them, it’d be great for men to trust and believe the women sharing their experiences. That isn’t to say that men should accept things blindly but if you have no reason to question something, please don’t – just believe what is being said.