triple j’s Hottest 100: where were the women?

Polly Jean Harvey

Polly Jean Harvey

Over the weekend, the ABC’s youth broadcaster triple j played the top 100 songs from the past 20 years of its ‘Hottest 100‘ series, as voted by its listeners via a recent poll.

‘Best of’ lists are by their nature subjective, and will leave some listeners unsatisfied, even outraged. The results of this poll whipped up plenty of passionate debate about the merits of the songs that were included, while disappointed fans took to social media to lament the omission of their favourite tunes and artists. Complaining, debating and celebrating the song choices are all part of the fun of these polls.

During the conversation over the weekend, and as the songs progressively counted down from 100 to one, fans also started calling out a glaring gap in the poll. There were virtually no female artists. Apart from the addition of rare solo artists, including Lana Del Rey and M.I.A., and the occasional band with a female lead such as The Cranberries and Florence + the Machine, women’s voices were noticeably quiet.

The triple j website reports that there were only five songs sung by female leads and fourteen songs played by female musos. That is a total of 19 tracks out of 100 that featured women over the past 20 years of music.

You don’t have to try too hard to name women who have shaped and influenced music over the past two decades. Polly Jean Harvey is a prolific, lauded and much awarded singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Harvey has released eight studio albums and collaborated with singers such as Nick Cave, Bob Dylan and Thom Yorke. Her accolades include being the only artist (male or female) to win two Mercury Prize awards, and two of her albums are included in the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Looking closer to home, multiple ARIA award winner Sarah Blasko has also had an impressive musical career. With three studio albums going Platinum, and her Seeker Lover Keeper collaboration with Holly Throsby and Sally Seltman going Gold, Blasko has also contributed to soundtracks and tribute albums, toured extensively, and in 2009 received the J Award for Australian Album of the Year.

These two women have been widely recognised by their peers and the music industry, yet they failed to make the cut in the Hottest 100. They can count themselves among a roll-call of other high profile female artists and female fronted bands who didn’t resonate with voters including Bjork, Amy Winehouse, Martha Wainwright, Missy Elliot, Hole, Feist, Garbage, No Doubt, Luscious Jackson, L7, Veruca Salt, Magic Dirt, The Breeders, Tori Amos, Clare Bowditch, KD Lang, The Waifs, Catpower, The Gossip and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to name just a few.

Why were these women and others so noticeably absent from the list? Close to a million votes were cast in the poll. Without statistics on the gender of voters we can only assume that both male and female voters shunned female artists. Why is it that women who are recognised through awards, accolades and high sales volumes aren’t vote winners with the public? It is hardly a celebration of the past 20 years of music without women’s voices, women’s riff-playing and women’s drum-pounding.

How can we ensure women musicians are represented and heard? We have the Stella Prize promoting women writers in Australia and the Forbes Most Powerful Women List celebrating women in business, society and politics. Maybe we need to take a similar approach with an all-female music poll.

Let’s ask voters for their favourite songs of the past 20 years as sung by female solo artists, all-girl groups, or bands with female leads. Let’s pay tribute to their talent and their important contribution to the soundtrack of the past two decades. Of course, this idea will raise concerns about ghettoising female artists in the same way the Stella Prize is criticised in relation to sidelining women writers. But at least it would allow for female musicians to be heard over the din of their male counterparts.

This article originally appeared in Women’s Agenda


Four tips for making your job search an affirming experience

Women can find themselves having an extended break from work for many reasons such as becoming a parent, taking some time out to study, illness, or retrenchment. Some of these situations are the woman’s choice while others are unplanned. Whether by choice or not, looking for a new role after an interruption to work can be daunting. Many women take on this challenge with reduced self-confidence and a fear that they have been de-skilled by their time away from work.

There’s plenty of sound advice out there about how to best approach job search; treat it as a full-time job, establish a social media profile, find a mentor, develop a killer resume, practice your interview techniques and network network network. You know the drill. And for most women it is a drill. A long, slow, arduous journey of ups and downs, knock-backs, great interviews and interesting leads that go nowhere, and a telephone that just won’t ring no matter how many times you check it.

If your self-esteem is already fragile to begin with, it’s at risk of being pummeled by the job search process. A shredded ego is not going to have a positive impact on helping you land your dream job. So, how do you turn your job search into an affirming experience and use it an opportunity for development and growth?

Here are four tips that could help

1. Remind yourself why you are awesome

Before you do anything else related to your job search, write an affirmation statement. This can be a paragraph, a whole page, or a couple of dot points that confirms why you deserve a fabulous job. Write down what you are good at, what achievements you are proud of, and what qualities make you awesome. This is a helpful start to shaping your resume, but also a positive point of reference when you are feeling defeated during your job search. Read it and re-read it and believe it.

2. Learn something new

Learning is a very motivating experience and will give you a sense of accomplishment. It will help keep your skills and knowledge up to date, and you may be able to include it in your resume. It doesn’t need to be formal or expensive. Read, go to a conference, do an online course, attend a lunchtime talk, or do some training. Think creatively and aim to learn something outside of your comfort zone. Pick a topic you’ve always been curious about but have never had the time to pursue. This can bring a new perspective to your area of expertise, or take you down a path you may not have considered before. It can also be a great way to expand your network. Check with your professional association, The Fetch and Eventbrite for interesting events for professionals in your city.

3. You need a project

One of the frustrations of job search is feeling like you’re on the usefulness scrapheap. This is pretty challenging if you are used to working in a demanding job where you tick off lots of achievements every day. You need a project to work towards so you can do something meaningful and rewarding. It need not be a big commitment of time, just something you find engaging. Ideally, choose a project that builds on your skills and experience. A well-chosen consultancy project will help you make connections with prospective employers and can enhance your resume. More importantly, it will make you feel good. If you can’t find a paid gig, consider offering your consulting services on a probono basis. If consulting isn’t your cup of tea, think about other projects that might inspire you. For example, interview someone whose job you aspire to and write it up as a guest post for a blog that relates to your profession or sector.

4. Go social and have fun

You’ve set up your LinkedIn profile and got yourself a Twitter handle but you don’t understand how to make it work for your job search. Yes, you can use social media to build your reputation, positioning and profile. However, if you approach it as a personal branding exercise it will be as joyless as re-writing your resume for the 28th time. Instead, treat it as an opportunity to connect and hang out with interesting people, and contribute to stimulating conversations. Social media is also a great listening post. If you keep your ear to the ground you will get useful insights into what individuals and organisations are talking about. This can help you shape an approach to them to pitch for work before a position gets advertised. Also, consider other ways to get more social. For example, spend a day a week in a co-working space. This will get you out the house and connecting with other professionals. You never know where these connections might lead.

Job search can be an affirming experience if you open yourself up to learning and doing new things and meeting new people. Treat it as a developmental opportunity and it will be much more rewarding. If you find it hard to stay positive and it is really getting you down, get some professional help: Beyond Blue

This article originally appeared in Women’s Agenda