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Gender Inequalities in Higher Music Education: Comparing the UK and Sweden
Örebro University, School of Music, Theatre and Art. (Aesthetics, Culture and Media)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9067-9496
2017 (English)In: The 22nd Annual Conference of the Nordic Network for Research in Music Education, March 14-16 2017: Abstracts, Senior research, NNMPF 2017, 2017, p. 19-21Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

A number of studies have either directly or indirectly pointed to the role of music education in reproducing broader gender inequalities, in broader music life, across genres (eg. Abeles 2009; Abeles and Porter 1978; Armstrong 2011; Bogdanovic 2015; Branch 2012; Gould 2004; Green 1997). Crucially, gender inequalities shape instrument and activity choices (Wych 2012) as well as perceptions about the relative value of those activities (Georgii-Hemming and Kvarnhall 2015). Such processes operate is alongside active discrimination against girls and women, as well as differential (and often preferential) treatment of individuals and groups on the basis of gender. Many, though not all, of these studies have been based on Anglophone countries. Yet despite its international reputation as a more ‘gender equal’ nation than many countries in other respects (U.N. 2014), music continues to be one field where people of non-male genders are excluded and discriminated against through ‘informal’ practices (Bergman 2014; Björck 2013; Kvarnhall 2015). 

Furthermore, whilst many approaches have focused on primary (grundskola) and secondary (gymnasiet) education, relatively few have actively explored the state of gender inequalities in higher music education (HME). Given HME’s increasingly important role in the professionalization of music careers across Europe (Allsup 2015) a focus on gender inequalities in higher education is of critical importance (Bogdanovic 2015; Born and Devine 2015). Such an approach entails asking where the problems lie, how gender inequalities manifest themselves and, crucially, how to change them given that course choices are, already, often shaped by years of specialisation in ‘lower’ education.

The first part of this paper presents comparative HME statistics from Sweden and the UK from 2010-2014, surrounding music course choices amongst undergraduate students. Drawing from statistical analysis on comprehensive data from UHR (Sweden) and UCAS (UK), it compares application and acceptance rates for men and women. This allows us to point to the extent to which institutional discrimination or previous education play a part in shaping participation rates at HME institutions at a national level. It relates similarities and differences between the two national contexts to key contextual features in the way music education is established and executed as well as broader societal commitments to gender equality.

However whilst Sweden has adopted a highly-successful gender mainstreaming agenda, something which clearly has an impact on HME, it is problematic to represent inequalities only in terms of inequalities of representation. Attempts to ‘fix representation’ may do very little to challenge patriarchal assumptions on which different music traditions are founded (Macarthur 2010; 2014); traditions such as all-male canons (Citron 2004), instrumental fetishisation (Pellegrini 2008) or masculinist aesthetic judgment (Macarthur 2002). Furthermore it may actively lead to preferential treatment of men in areas where women are now better represented, despite historical exclusion - the so-called missing males problem in choirs for example (Koza 1993; O'Toole 1998) - as well as overlooking how intersectionality  impacts on different forms of gendered exclusion. In this respect, a gender-mainstreaming focus in Sweden has also tended to overlook how class, ethnic and racial inequalities in other areas influence gender inequalities (de los Reyes 2016); something which could well extend to music.

The second part of the paper therefore outlines some of the issues the data throws up around how to define, understand and combat gender inequalities in HME. It makes specific reference to how gender mainstreaming approaches may discriminate against trans* individuals (Hines 2013), and how efforts to increase women’s representation may miss more fundamental strategies in engaging and transforming men’s attitudes and behaviour. Crucially, in doing so, it also touches on more complex issues around what the marketization of higher education means for gender inequalities at a university level. Comparing the more-recently neoliberal free-market system in the UK (Allen et al. 2013; De Angelis and Harvie 2009; Radice 2013), with the more ‘public institution’ approach in Sweden, allows for debate as around how universities should challenge already-gendered ‘consumer’ choices and how far they can seek to actively change those choices. These questions centre not just on the subjects that are offered but the way in which the subjects are marketed to appeal to a range of groups.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. p. 19-21
Keywords [en]
gender inequalities, higher music education, Sweden, UK
National Category
Musicology
Research subject
Musicology esp. Musical Education; Musicology; Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-64586OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-64586DiVA, id: diva2:1177997
Conference
22nd Annual Conference of the Nordic Network for Research in Music Education, Gothenburg Academy of Music and Drama, Gothenburg, Sweden, March 14-16, 2017
Available from: 2018-01-26 Created: 2018-01-26 Last updated: 2018-01-29Bibliographically approved

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de Boise, Sam

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