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Why are women overlooked at British music awards?

09 Nov 2017

2017 has been a great year for UK music. We saw the rise of Stefflon Don whose recent hit ‘Hurting Me’ has just gone silver and Jorja Smith – whose humble West Midlands roots have seen her touring the world.

More so than ever we have seen a rise of female rappers, coming with heavy bars that we haven’t seen the likes of since Lioness and Shystie of the Channel U days. Just to name a few: Nadia Rose, Ms Banks, Paigey Cakey, Lady Leshurr and Little Simz – ok maybe more than a few – have all had a stand out year reminding us that grime and hip-hop aren’t just for the mandem.

Our latest cover girl RAY BLK, bless our ears along with IAMDDB, Mabel, Miraa May and NAO with soulful soundtracks over the last 12 months. Furthermore, female personalities continued to work the UK’s broadcasting scene. Maya Jama, Rebecca Judd, Emerald and Joelah Noble have all become the voices that resonate with some of hottest bangers of the year.

Now all my name-dropping isn’t for nothing, it’s to prove a point. The list above is to serve as a reminder that there is extensive female talent in the UK. Talent that has been integral to the recognition the UK music scene is now getting, talent that needs to be rewarded. So it saddens me to see that when it came to the GRM Rated Awards nominees announcement back in September, only one or two of these names were included on the list. DJ Siobhan Bell brought this issue to light on Twitter which lead to a change in nominees eventually before the awards took place last month.

To nominate one or two women to pad out your awards is more offensive than forgetting us all together. Forgetting to include women in top awards: Best Song, Video, and Album goes to show we still have a long way to go. It’s not the case of nominations for the sake of diversity it’s a fact that women have created music in these categories that are more than worthy of a nomination.

We spoke to three of the leading voices in the UK to get their insight as to why women are still forgotten come award season and how we can change this.

Tiffany Calver – DJ and presenter, Kiss FM

gal-dem: Do you think there is anything award organisers can do to diversify their nominations to include more female artists?

I think that if nominations become diversified for diversity’s sake, it would defeat the entire purpose of what women have been fighting for forever; equality. I do think that award organisers need to make sure that they are paying enough attention to females in the music industry, to take them into account in every category, but nominations should be based on merit. Not just to make it “fair” – and we are definitely at a point in time where it is undeniable that women are working just as hard, if not harder, towards the same achievements as the opposite sex.

Is there anything that female artists can do to get more recognition for awards?

I don’t feel like there’s anything different that needs to be done, however, I do feel like the most important thing we can all do as women, is to keep showing support for one another. Stop putting ourselves against men, something I was super guilty of doing in the past, and instead channel that energy into pushing ourselves further to reach our personal bests. A prime example of someone that has conquered everything I am saying here is Cardi B. Just by working on her self-development as an artist, against all odds, she, in turn, received support from basically the entire planet. Self-promotion is not narcissism. You need to be your biggest support system first.

Do you think this is something that can change by next award season?

Absolutely, and it will. I think it’s important to note that, as clear as it is that women do have it a lot harder in some respects, not every man is working against us progressing. In fact, I feel as though there are so many men in the music industry that are in alliance with breaking these boundaries alongside us. For me, I am a strong believer in the term “strength in numbers”, and so I believe that the more quality content being put out, the more possibility that women who rightfully deserve a nomination, will be nominated.

Snoochie Shy – DJ and Presenter, Radar Radio

Do you think there is anything award organisers can do to diversify their nominations to include more women in music?

Yeah, they can start by including more women. That’s the starting point. It bothers me that this is even a topic of discussion in 2017.

Which other women in music would you have like to see nominated for an award this year?

Ms Banks, Nadia Rose, Amelia Dimoldenberg (Chicken Shop Date), IAMDDB, A.G (NTS Radio), C Cane

You have previously run workshops for young women to teach them how to get into presenting. Do you believe it’s important for women to mentor each other to help breakthrough in the music industry?

I’m definitely a firm believer in this. When I was getting into the industry I didn’t really have anyone guiding me, I just fell into it and pretended I knew what was going on, I still kind of am now to be honest. I think it’s always good to pass on your knowledge to the younger generation even if you are young yourself and haven’t got all of the answers #NoKanye. Women need to empower other women, Spice Girls were my crew growing up and they were all about girl power! I’m still all about that!

Tinea Taylor – Broadcaster, Kiss FM

Do you think there is anything award organisers can do to diversify their nominations to include more female artists?

Many award shows really only include “Best Female/ International Female” when trying to highlight a woman’s achievements. When it comes to “Best Director” for example they only ever include or think of the men as they probably still only see it as a typical male occupation. Which of course isn’t fair.

One female director in particular I respect is Carly Cussen. She’s responsible for videos for the likes of Distortion, Krept & Konan, Ella Eyre and Lethal Bizzle to name a few but I rarely ever hear her name mentioned or recognised at these award shows.

It’s just important for the organisers to be open-minded to the many talented women in the industry as a whole. Certain award shows will have a “Best Male DJ” category but completely fail to acknowledge the female DJ’s that are constantly being booked for amazing gigs internationally as well as here in the UK. It’s a shame but hopefully, this will change.

Is there anything that female artist can do to get more recognition for awards?

I don’t think it’s a job for the women, because if you look at female MC’s such as Lady Leshurr, Stefflon Don, Little Simz or singers such as Jorja Smith, Ella Eyre and RAY BLK they’re killing it at the moment and sometimes it’s still not enough. It’s a male-dominated industry consisting of some amazing women that people need to start recognising and including for things to change.

Why do you think UK awards are still very male-heavy?

It’s an industry where men are more acknowledged for the work that they do, they’re paid more, so of course, they’re at the forefront when it comes to recognition. Women are often a second thought which is just ridiculous as they do some incredible work not just in music but in the arts as a whole.