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IN OTHER NEWS,
TODAY IS WEDNESDAY

In light of the Harvey Weinstein story, we refer you to this column by HITS President Karen Glauber, written in response to similar revelations about a major music exec and originally published in May.

For 27 years, President Karen Glauber has been an integral member of the HITS team and part of our family—and her writing has been key to our collective voice ever since she came aboard. A leader in the music community, Karen has taught us a lot about gender politics in the industry. In light of recent events at Epic, we wanted to share her perspective. – Lavinthal and Beer

A white pantsuit is the first thing I see in my closet every morning—it’s a glaring reminder of how naïve I was to believe that gender bias couldn’t possibly be the deterrent it once was, and that the most qualified candidate, a woman, would be elected President. Ever since last November, not much surprises me.

When I heard about L.A. Reid’s dismissal from Epic Records, I mentally added the subtext “for cause” in the cryptic notice from Sony: “L.A. Reid will be leaving the company.” But I’ll admit I was surprised.

Not by the accusations of sexual harassment. In other news, today is Wednesday. What I didn’t expect was the company’s decisive response to behavior that has always been rampant, yet rarely with consequences. I hope the brave woman or women who came forward (or have yet to come forward) are not further victimized and shamed for their decision. They’ve done nothing wrong. I can’t believe I have to even write that in 2017.

There isn’t one female in the music industry who hasn’t been sexually harassed at some point in her career. Let that sink in. Not one. Believe me, I know. And I know this isn’t about sex—not really. It’s about power, insecurity and the need to assert status.

Preying on young women through flattery, suggestive language, familiar touching, invites to parties/dinners where male coworkers aren’t also included, promises of mentoring, etc., isn’t appropriate behavior. No employee, regardless of gender, should have to expect that going to their boss’ hotel room to hear music would automatically lead to an invitation to join him on a bed.

It’s progress that a woman can now report harassment and be taken seriously. But I have no clue if there are repercussions. It should be assumed that reporting someone for sexual harassment is not on anyone’s list of “career highlights.”

The delineation between work life and personal life in the music business is far more abstract than in most corporate work environments. We “live” the music. It defines who we are, especially when we are still at that age when we can’t imagine any other kind of life.

A false closeness is fostered and our coworkers become our de facto families. For those hired right out of college, the boss becomes a trusted confidant/father figure/supposed mentor. It is wholly inappropriate for a man (or woman) to abuse that trust.

Male executives do not hire many young women, except as assistants, and those jobs are often relegated to promotion and publicity. Women are hired because they know how to do the job; men might be too, but they are also frequently hired because the boss sees their potential: “You remind me of what I was like at your age.” Narcissism and insecurity make up the double-edged sword that cuts across our business. In other words, today is still Wednesday.

At the beginning of my career I spent eight years at a record label. During that time I was pinned to a bed and choked by one of the 17 different men I called “boss” during my tenure there. The same boss said I’d be better at my job, running the New Music Marketing Department, if I had bigger breasts—which he demonstrated by grabbing mine. An artist held a knife to my throat, demanding I find coke for him. And there was that incident of assault by an artist manager when I stopped by his hotel room to pick up tour laminates for label executives. My boss dismissed me and said I must have done something to provoke the manager. He almost had me believing it was my fault.

There isn’t one female in the music industry who hasn’t been sexually harassed at some point in her career.

Let that sink in. 

Not one.

The tipping point, however, was the boss who treated me in such a condescending manner that I had no choice except to leave. By that point, I was used to others taking credit for my ideas and achievements.

Would any of the above happened to me if I weren’t a woman? Not a chance. This is sexual harassment.

It is sexual harassment when a woman’s decision to have a child puts her job at risk, or when her right to maternal leave, while granted, is interrupted by the demands of her boss. This is not respectful behavior. Not in our business, not anywhere.

I had to explain to my current bosses the meaning of “mansplaining,” which is currently the subtlest and most pervasive form of harassment. They were unfamiliar with the term, but, I’m happy to add, they also don’t engage in the practice. There are many reasons I’ve worked at HITS for 27 years; chief among them is that gender discrimination is a non-factor.

My bosses appreciate and foster the careers of smart women. But that isn’t necessarily the norm. In the music business, a woman’s ideas, unless validated by a man, are too often viewed as a threat. Women are not encouraged to speak up, in any context, because to do so would diminish their bosses’ authority.

Yes, there are more women “in the room” now. Formidable, brilliant, clever, accomplished: Jody Gerson, Michelle Jubelirer, Gillian Bar, Sylvia Rhone, Michele Anthony, Jacqueline Saturn, Amy Morgan, Ethiopia Habtemariam and Katie Vinten are among the many women I admire.

“Sisterhood Is Powerful” is our mantra. We have each other’s backs and strive to be the mentors we wished we had. I cherish my role as advocate, career advisor and protector for an ever-expanding group of incredible women. Even as we gain influence, lists like the “100 Most Powerful Women in the Music Business” suggest that our group is finite and that 101 powerful women are (at least) one too many. Fuck that.

But even as we make strides professionally and take steps to carve out our own validating space, we must understand that the boys’ club will probably always rule the business. “Bro culture” is stronger than ever. Hostility towards professional women is on the rise everywhere, which men who run labels express by sexualizing every female artist on their roster.

Look at the man now occupying the most powerful job in the land. He’s openly admitted to sexual predation far more heinous than the alleged actions that prompted this column. He’s a constant reminder of where we are and how far we have to go, just like the pantsuit I see every morning.•

 

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