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Equalities

Equal opportunities to all members

The Musicians’ Union is dedicated to representing the diversity of its membership.

John Shortell, Education and Equalities Official

The trade union movement in the UK grew from a belief that, when united, the minority can have the voice of the majority. Representing workers from every section of society regardless of their cultural background, gender, age or sexual orientation lies at the very heart of what we do.

The Musicians’ Union (MU) is committed to achieving Equality for all members, and continues to celebrate the diversity of the music industry and raise awareness of Equality issues through the work of the Equalities Committee.

What do Equality & Diversity mean?

Equality is not about treating everybody the same. It goes without saying that everybody should be treated fairly and equally regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or any of the other protected characteristics. That said, treating someone fairly can sometimes mean having to treat them differently to take into account their circumstances and enable them to participate on equal terms.

A musician with full sight, for example, does not require Braille scores, or a Trans musician may need extra support whilst transitioning that a cisgender musician will not. Equality is about levelling the playing field so everybody has access to the same opportunities. 

Diversity is about recognising individual as well as group differences, and aims to create an inclusive culture for all. Diversity values and respects people’s differences to ensure everybody’s needs and requirements are met. Supporting diversity could be something as simple as changing the music you teach so you’re not only teaching white European composers or making sure your rehearsal space is accessible to musicians with disabilities.

Why does this matter?

Equality and Diversity lead to more innovation and more opportunities for everyone, and better access to talent. Working with people from different backgrounds and with different experiences allows us to learn and get a new perspective.

 

The benefits of Equality and Diversity are clear but this doesn’t mean embracing equality and diversity is easy. The MU works with a range of members and organisations to ensure best practice is highlighted, implemented and adhered to regarding equality and diversity issues. 

The MU’s Equalities Committee

The MU’s Equalities Committee is divided into four under-represented areas: Women, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME), Disabled, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Plus (LGBT+) members. The committee advises on many areas including:

  • Equality and diversity issues relating to musicians working across the music industry.
  • Celebrating and encouraging diversity, promoting equality and challenging inequalities.
  • Developing, implementing and reviewing the MU’s equality and diversity strategies.
  • Developing and reviewing equality and diversity negotiations on an industrial scale.
  • Raising awareness of equality and diversity issues through events and publications.

“The Equalities Committee has worked hard to ensure that the MU leads the way on issues of equality and diversity in the music industry by challenging barriers to participation and engagement to make sure every musician has access to equal opportunities. The committee enables us to identify problems before they arise. A proactive committee is imperative to providing solutions to equality and diversity issues that produce tangible results. ” says John Shortell, MU Education & Equalities Official. 

The committee represents musicians from minority groups by participating in the TUC’s four annual Equality Conferences, where they are able to submit motions on a range of issues from parental rights to opportunities for BAME musicians and greater provisions for mental health services. 

The MU has addressed equality and diversity issues through a series of events that raise awareness, promote debate and instigate change.  Recent events include:

  • The closure of LGBT+ venues
  • Sexism in the music industry and how women have faced those challenges head on
  • Diversity in orchestras, the challenges BAME musicians face and simple steps the industry can take to overcome them
  • Surveying Deaf and disabled musicians about accessibility

These issues are not something we just discuss once a year during history months. The MU works throughout the year on points raised in the discussions, and develops strategies and campaigns to highlight and deal with the problems.

Ongoing projects includes working on protecting LGBT +venues, improving disabled access at venues with Attitude is Everything, pushing forward disability rights and making sure maternity, adoption and parental rights are enforced. 

What can you do?

The MU is committed to building a membership that truly reflects the diversity of musicians working in the UK with the aim of having parity of representation across our membership.

A full and diverse membership is essential to effect change and create a music industry where every individual is given an equal chance to achieve their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination.  

If you’re passionate about bringing about change and tackling discrimination, or you’d like to discuss any other matter related to equalities, contact John Shortell on 020 7840 5554 or email john.shortell@themu.org