4 Unspoken Reasons Why Female DJs Are Unequal (And How To Conquer Them)

| Read time: 7 mins
Last updated 7 August, 2017

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Miss Kittin
Miss Kittin, who’s sustained a long career as a performer, producer and DJ.

Only 10% of performers at music festivals around the world are female, and an even smaller percentage of women are on music label rosters, according to Female Pressure. So if you’re a female DJ, my betting is you’ve at some point felt like it’s close to an impossible task in front of you. That despite pumping out great mixes and working as hard as you can, the recognition from booking agents and promoters – and the subsequent gigs and success – remain elusive.

Why? Why do female DJs get the short end? Why do they fail to break the Top 10 lists of any kind (besides an all-female DJ list)? And more important, how is it that somefemale DJs beat the odds and build brands that help them to achieve huge DJing success?

The answers lie in the reasons why females are unequal generally, beyond DJing. And in this article I’m going reveal the “unspoken truths” that cause well-deserving female DJs like you to be unequal. Truths that mean, if you’re don’t take action to counter them, you’ll end up getting no results, becoming demotivated… and eventually burning out and quitting.

The good news is that once you acknowledge these unspoken truths within yourself, you can beat the odds and start to see results. So, here they are:

Unspoken Truth #1: Women consistently underestimate their own talents and abilities

I’ve met so many amazing female DJs who underestimate their skills and value in the music industry, while equally I’ve met many male DJs who have egos the size of Jupiter yet can’t even hold down their own behind the decks to make a proper mix.

Here’s the deal: When you are a new DJ it is only natural to feel inferior to those that have paved the way for you. Of course your confidence is not going to be so high. So what do we do with this self-inflicted unspoken truth? The secret lies in your ability to prove yourself wrong.

Annie Mac commands respect as a DJ through her work with BBC Radio 1 and tireless work on the road too.
Annie Mac commands respect as a DJ through her work with BBC Radio 1 and tireless work on the road too.

So, I’m giving you permission. You don’t have to be right, day in, day out, about choosing the right mix, meeting the right people, choosing the right logo or website or DJ name, or any of the other million choices that you have to make to build a career. Here, you just have to work to prove yourself wrong about being inadequate! How does that feel? Good? Great? AWESOME? Here’s how one leading lady DJ puts it into perspective:

“From when I first started playing, I’ve worked very hard to prove myself as an artist that is competent on every level. And sometimes people will say you are very good… for a girl [laughing]. Excuse me, how about you just say I’m very good all across the board?” – DJ Helena Interview with The Examiner.

Unspoken Truth #2: Successful women are liked less than successful men

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, highlighted this one in her book Lean In. She pointed out that if a male (in this case a male DJ) becomes more successful, he is more liked. But if a female becomes more successful, she is less liked – and that’s true by both women and men.

The easiest way to get people to like you through your journey to success is to treat people with respect, and recognise them in your efforts.

So what’s the secret to conquering this one? It’s this: The easiest way to get people to like you through your journey to success is to treat people with respect, and recognise them in your efforts. If you’re someone who doesn’t need to put others down in order to lift yourself up, then most people (men and women) will feel compelled to respect you for the work that you do, and will have a positive opinion of you as a person.

Ever notice that in many of Nervo’s interviews, the ladies continuously give admiration, positive comments and recognition to all of the DJs and producers that have worked with them? What would people be saying about their success and likability if the opposite were true? I think we would have a bunch of ticked-off people in the music industry, all too happy to cut their careers short.

That’s it. What you must do is respect people who have influence… so you can seize the opportunities they give you. The question is: “How?” And that leads me to the next unspoken truth.

Vanity Fair L'Oreal Paris Nim Liv Nervo
The Nervo sisters have managed to get success and remain liked and respected through obeying the simple rule above.

Unspoken Truth #3: When choosing who should DJ, men are significantly more likely to choose men

In the DJing industry where most promoters, bar and club owners are men, they are likely to favour other men, with female DJs generally only getting a look-in when a promoter or club manager tries to put together an all-female night, or wants you to DJ “the ladies’ night”. (What is the draw? Should it really matter?)

The best way to demonstrate your value as a DJ is to respect this male-dominated network, and showcase the benefits you and your music bring to complement their establishment. Do you have a large social network of followers that you can bring to the venue? Are you great at crowd interaction?

Some DJs show up around 15 minutes before their set and head out the door as soon as their set is done – will you come early and stick around after your set? Are you dependable? Do you have testimonials not only on your talent but on your character? You want to be that type of person they can roll the dice on, so show them!

Unspoken Truth #4: Senior men are more likely to mentor young men than young women

This means that men will often gravitate towards helping younger men, with whom they connect more naturally. In addition, women are less likely to seek a mentorship from someone of the opposite sex. This means there are fewer women who are being mentored through their DJing careers by leading male DJs. As someone who was myself mentored by a female DJ, I felt this was the best way for me to learn and avoid any problems my then-boyfriend might have if I had chosen a male DJ mentor. (I can just imagine…)

Women are less likely to seek a mentorship from someone of the opposite sex.

One simple solution: Find other female DJs who can guide you through this journey. Throughout my career, I have reached out to many female DJs to get bits of advice. Still, to this day I look for guidance from those whom I admire and deeply respect. Not only are most female DJs willing to share, the majority of the time, they are generally also happy you reached out in the first place.

Through the brilliance of technology we can reach out to just about anyone on earth, using Skype and Google Hangouts to communicate face to face with people wherever they may be. I know from personal experience that while learning how to DJ is one thing, learning how to be a DJ is a completely different challenge. That’s where mentors are invaluable.

Sam Divine
Sam Divine was the first female DJ to sign for Defected Records. If you’ve got the talent and the drive, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t be the next…

Next steps…

Now that you’ve maybe (hopefully) glimpsed some of the subtleties of why women are held back in Djing, if you’re a female DJ reading this, you’ve got one goal: You need to get some sort of result.

Maybe some honest feedback from someone who has been down that road before, or something else to give you as boost in confidence. Doesn’t have to be huge, but the truth is that when you work on something for too long without seeing any reward, you get demotivated – and that’s the last thing you want that to happen.

So, what can you do to get that? Well, remember when I said: The easiest way to get people to like you through your journey to success is to treat people with respect and recognise them in your efforts.

First you must figure out what DJs you really look up to, in terms of music style, personal brand, attitude, and overall presence, in order to work out who you’d actually like to get some one-on-one straight-up DJ career talk from.

So do that. First you must figure out what DJs you really look up to, in terms of music style, personal brand, attitude, and overall presence, in order to work out who you’d actually like to get some one-on-one straight-up DJ career talk from. Pick your one dream DJ mentor whose wing you’d love to be taken under. (Notice I said “dream” DJ mentor. Shoot for the stars!), but also list three other DJs who you’d also love to get personal tips from. they don’t have to be the biggest DJs in the world, just respected names who you think would do your DJing career well.

Vitally, in both scenarios, work out exactly why you think these choices of DJ would be able to help you. This is important, and if you skip this step, the exercise is pointless, because we need to take action to get results.

Now get that spiffy list of 3 DJs (not the dream DJ mentor just yet) and reach to start that connection based on respect. If this DJ is not in your area, you can definitely find them on Twitter, Facebook or through their contact information found on their website. From there, tell them how they inspire you or why you really dig their style. Now is not the time to ask them for anything, but rather this is the crucial step to show them how much of an impact on your career they have.

Everyone likes to get praise from people they don’t know: no one likes to have to answer “Will you be my mentor?” What you’re doing here is starting something, and while you can’t know at this point what might come of it,trust me: You get amazing things back once you start to give like this.

Éclair-Fifi
Éclair-Fifi featured on BBC Radio 1’s In New DJs We Trust, and is said to have been mentored by Annie Mac, also of the station.

As for your dream DJ mentor, keep following and building on relationships with people within reach and the people they know. People are more receptive to meeting someone introduced by a trusted friend or associate. Eventually by connecting with someone who has an existing relationship with either your dream DJ mentor’s agent or publicist, you’ll increase the odds of a successful connection.

Finally, if you want to reach out to me you can find me at casielane.com where I write about simple discoveries to bring vitality to your DJing career. Or if you prefer, you can also send me something awesome on Twitter at @CasieLane.

Here at Digital DJ Tips, we suspect there are more female DJs who read this site than ever put their hand up and say something. So if that’s you, please take this chance to say hello below and tell us of your triumphs and challenges in DJing.

Now go to:
The Friday Roundup: Female DJs, Paul Van Dyk, Rave Cops, Best of 2013
From the Guardian: Where are all the female DJs?
Your Questions: Does Body Image Matter For DJs?

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