Shelby Elizabeth | Girls Behind The Rock Show
My name is Shelby Elizabeth, I am the CEO/Founder of a non-profit organization called Girls Behind The Rock Show. The aim of our organization is to help young women get properly educated in healthy workspaces in the music industry, so they can have a leg up when it comes time to move past entry level jobs.
For almost three years, I myself have been trying to nail down and define GBTRS - but the truth is, like the options of work in the industry, our spectrum is just as wide and broad as any. We look to combat sexism with education of women and with willing men who want to make a difference. As wonderful as that sounds, the backlash we receive, the reasons people say no and the situations that brought all the young women who work at Girls together, continue each day to prove that there’s so much work to do.
Representation - especially for women of color - on the business side of the music industry is lacking in so many ways. Every year Billboard announces it’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Music, but female overlap into the 100 Most Powerful People in Music (on average) barely reaches 15%. Recently, studies from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has begun reporting on underrepresentation if women in the music industry. It’s extremely helpful to the movement to be able to showcase the numbers and pinpoint where exactly change is needed, but looking at them, change seems to be needed everywhere. The industry seems to see women as a commodity, a check mark on their diversity scale, even though young females make up 70-80% of all entertainment products purchased. They are, on average, 50% of attendees at all major festivals, and in the U.K., women make up 59% of entry level jobs.
With such a drop off from junior to senior roles, it’s hard to understand why the industry isn’t speaking up or out about the lack of women in powerful positions. We seem to be appeased with things like the Women in Music Awards, or having these killer female artists taking over the charts, but where’s the impact on the business?
We want more women like SZA, Kesha, Hayley Williams and Camila Cabello to continue to speak. The strong women behind the scenes like Julie Greenwald, Allison Kaye, Nicki Farag, Camille Hackney and a good portion of the executives in Combs Enterprises have worked tirelessly to get where they are. Probably with a lot of “proving themselves” beyond their male colleagues. We need people who fight for the average music-loving woman that all of these powerful executives started out as. The woman who works as a cog in the giant machine and has to fight tooth and nail to prove she's “capable of handling herself around artists” before she gets a promotion. We want to empower young women to fight back when they’re uncomfortable at work. We want the stigmas around “groupies” and “fangirls” to be taken away. We want all male artists to appreciate their fans like Harry Styles, LANY and SWMRS. People who work with women and their fans to empower them, who highlight their large female fanbases as an asset and don’t talk down to them.
I gave you the "why" behind my company, but all the women who utilize us, and all the people who reach out and take a chance on these young women through us, are my story. My personal struggles brought me to create GBTRS, but it’s all the young women who have continued to help it grow that truly matter. In 2018, women have a huge voice, they are at the forefront of social change. Change is needed everywhere, from the lack of creative education in impoverished areas around the world, to the highest levels of the music industry.
Women in business are a powerful force. It’s time that the music industry, which has benefited off them monetarily for so long, finally reward the thousands of women they inspired to pursue this passion as a career.