If you’ve ever been to a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show, you might have noticed that vendor representation is disproportionately made up of men. Yet there are troves of women with expertise and competence who could undoubtedly represent with distinction. Where have these women been?
To find the answer, I reached out to Lisa MacDonald, Director of Vertical Marketing at Yamaha Corporation of America and Chair of WoN (Women of NAMM) — a volunteer organization dedicated to connecting, supporting and growing women in the musical instrument (MI), pro audio and entertainment industries. Lisa and WoN are on the peaceful front lines of solidifying more visibility and opportunity for women in those fields.
Why do you and your colleagues believe women are so under-represented at NAMM?
There’s a school of thought that women aren’t taught to be good at leveraged business relationships like men are. We’re taught that transactional is distasteful. Women typically give without an expectation of getting something in return. It’s a “what can I do to help you” mentality.
There’s an article in the Harvard Business Review called Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome that discusses why many women are made to feel like they don’t belong in the room. The premise being, it’s not that women don’t feel capable; it’s more that women don’t conform to the conventional male model of leadership so they don’t recognize themselves as leaders. But they are. They’re compassionate listeners and excellent communicators — standout qualities of leaders.
How has WoN made a difference?
WoN is dedicated to increasing female representation in the industry. Our primary goal is to build a network where women can connect, support each other and find personal and professional development. The organization chose to align with other women’s groups that have common interests and form a hub where everyone could come together.
It’s hard not to get angry with such a typically non-inclusive culture. How do you go about effecting change in a friendly way?
The best way to facilitate change is with positivity. WoN aims to educate without castigation — to give people practical information about how to be more proactive and how to create more equity. We talk to them about how to be aware because they might not even be aware of their (or their company’s) unintentional bias.
99% of people want to do good; they want to do better. You just have to give them the information and the opportunity. As for the 1%, it’s really easy to let them suck your time away from the 99% who want to make a difference.
Who are the core members of WoN and who do you aim to reach?
The organization welcomes corporate employees who work for manufacturers like Yamaha and others, as well as artists and people in the management side and production —the whole spectrum of music industry people. We currently invest most of our resources in early- and mid-career women — emerging women who are going to be impactful and critical to their business. WoN is excited to help them with tools, networking and support. But we are working on scaling benefits to all career levels in the industry.
How did you come to join up with WoN?
I worked in publishing for 10 years before entering the music space. It was Yamaha — who were early supporters (philosophically and financially) of Women of NAMM — that convinced me to join the organization. Yamaha is a company that has great respect for their employees and is passionate about their progress.
What are some upcoming events you’re excited about?
Several members of the organization will be presenting at the NAMM convention this year and speaking about issues surrounding our interests and concerns; WoN will also be hosting a networking reception at the show. Last year there was significant attendance from performers, songwriters, musicians, women in production and entrepreneurs.
Then there’s “Deep Dive” — an online bi-monthly facilitative conversation meant to bring women together in small groups to talk about a particular topic, aspiration or challenge. Men are invited too — especially those who are interested in being a better ally and want to participate in the conversation.
WoN also has an ongoing podcast called “ReVoicing the Future” that interviews women in all different facets of the industry who want to share their experience and help find and develop future talent.
WoN offers two scholarship programs. Can you tell us more about them?
The first covers travel and accommodations to bring six women to the NAMM show every year in order to meet people and get acquainted with people in the industry. We provide job shadowing and introductions, and we accompany the recipients to networking events. In addition, the scholarship recipients are provided with a year-long mentorship program.
The second program is a Leadership Summit — a three-day visit to NAMM headquarters in Carlsbad, California, where participants receive executive coaching and six months of follow-up.
Miranda Altman, Director of Program Operations for Music Will
“Receiving a scholarship to the 2021 Women of NAMM Leadership Summit was truly a pivot point in my career,” says Miranda Altman, Director of Program Operations for Music Will, the largest nonprofit music program for schools in the United States. “I now find myself having this strong network of allies and the opportunity to both mentor and be mentored by a diverse and inspirational group of women. Being on the nonprofit side, partnerships and collaboration are essential to supporting the positive social impact of this industry. Through Women of NAMM, I now have a strong network of peers I can turn to for professional and personal support, synergy and innovation.”
Thea Paraskevaides, Founder of ARTISTS&
Thea Paraskevaides, founder of the production, performance and promotion agency ARTISTS&, had a similar experience. “Becoming part of the Women of NAMM organization and receiving a scholarship for the leadership summit came at the perfect time for me personally and professionally,” she says. “Having moved on from a business I had been in for over 10 years, it was a much needed reset and a deeply beneficially coaching and learning experience that helped me to identify my strengths, focus my career path and gain valuable experience and support from peers.
“The connections made have already lead to fruitful partnerships,” she adds, “and knowing there is a vast network of fierce and talented women just a message away is such a valuable resource in this industry.”
Kathleen Green, Senior Manager of Customer Engagement, Yamaha Corporation of America
Kathleen Green, Senior Manager of Customer Engagement, Yamaha Corporation of America, first got involved with Women of NAMM when she was one of 19 women selected to participate in the 2021 WoN Leadership Summit.
“During the three-day summit I learned a lot about leadership,” she reports. “We did team building, coaching and educational seminars as well as exploring our personal strengths and areas for development based on 360-degree feedback. But just listing those activities doesn’t encapsulate the magic that happened.”
Spending time at the NAMM headquarters also expanded Green’s thoughts on NAMM as an organization and helped to solidify the advocacy work that WoN does. “We work in an industry that changes people’s lives,” she says. “It gives people purpose, hope and an outlet for uncomfortable emotions. NAMM is a business association, but it’s very mission-driven to support the pleasures and benefits of music, making sure music is accessible for everyone.
“I absolutely cannot wait for the WoN network sessions at the upcoming NAMM show,” she adds. “While networking can conjure up images of forced conversations and awkward asks, it’s all about mindset. It’s really an opportunity to make new friends. There are many great opportunities to meet inspiring people with similar interests or career paths that could become lifelong connections!”
For more information about Women of NAMM, visit ww1.namm.org/women-of-namm
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