Elevate! Empowering, promoting and supporting women across Leeds Conservatoire

Across the UK music industry, the issue of gender equality is constantly being referred to, questioned, debated and reported on. The fact remains that women are less represented across the music industry than men. 

At Leeds Conservatoire (LC), as of 2019 this unequal divide was also prevalent: 

  • Professional Support Staff: 47% Female / 53% Male
  • Academic Staff: 21% Female / 79% Male
  • Students: 29% Female / 71% Male

As a way of counteracting this, LC has launched Elevate – a programme of activities and initiatives which look to support, inspire and motivate women who work across the institution. 

Elevate launch event, 2018, Leeds Conservatoire

Rather than imposing central processes for empowering female staff, the Elevate programme provides platforms for staff to speak together, discuss the various issues which relate to women particularly, as well as gain insight from women in leadership roles across the arts and cultural sector. The intention is to put gender firmly on the agenda for the institution, giving female staff visibility within the organisation as well as a network of other women and ‘allies’ across the conservatoire and beyond.

During 2018/19, activities included: 

  • Panel events with inspiring leaders from across the sector and beyond
  • Opportunities to observe boards and committees across the institution
  • Introduction to Peer Mentoring
  • LC Woman of Excellence Award
  • Elevate Photography Exhibition – showcasing 30 women from across the institution in a year-long exhibition. These images will also be published in a book available in our library.
  • Academic Promotion Workshops for women
  • Library collection – on gender equality and intersectional equality topics, by male, female and non-binary authors.

Elevate launch event, 2018, Leeds Conservatoire

In 2020 we began collating statistical evidence which demonstrates engagement with the Elevate programme: for example, women applying for academic promotion; library books which have been borrowed; and attendance at an Elevate event.

Developments so far

Early indications are that women across the institution are developing stronger informal networks from attending Elevate events. 

Elevate has also contributed to LC policy in anonymising all job applications during the selection process which has been trialled in recent opportunities for new Theatre programmes at the conservatoire. The initiative has also inspired strategic actions in the conservatoire’s equality and diversity action plan: in the next five years, we aim to have a 50:50 gender split in our academic teaching staff in all pathways. 

Plans for next year seek to broaden the conversation around Elevate. Elevate will expand to engage more men in conversations about gender equality, to connect with LC’s student-led activities, and to link up with other institutions and initiatives outside LC.

To that end we will to develop an online repository for ideas and events inspired by the Elevate programme which other institutions can use in their own environments. This platform will also share the activities of other organisations and, together, share good practice and monitor progress. 

But we also go into the future being bolder, asking more provocative questions of ourselves, our work, our disciplines, our attitudes and our institutions:

  • Are we an ally to all women? 
  • Do we support women who are white, straight, cisgender, able and educated? 
  • Can we support women of colour, women who are trans, who have disabilities, who are homeless, who are in sex work, who are refugees? 

Leeds Conservatoire’s Libby Raper Elevate Award for Women in Music Production

To celebrate International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March 2021, LC are looking back at the winner and nominees for the Libby Raper Elevate Award for Women in Music Production, details for which can be found here: https://www.leedsconservatoire.ac.uk/about-us/news/international-womens-day-libby-raper-women-in-music-production-award.

The Elevate programme is a platform for ALL women, and we look forward to joining with women across the AEC.

This article is a part of the publication titled How are diverse cultures integrated in the education of musicians across Europe? Other chapters can be found here.