Glass ceilings, glass harmonicas: Challenges for women in musical leadership

Author Identifier

Helen Rusak

ORCID : 0000-0002-8391-6027

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Female Leadership in Music


Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)




Rusak, H. (2021, June). Glass ceilings, glass harmonicas: Challenges for women in musical leadership [Paper presentation]. Female Leadership in Music, Belgrade, Serbia. https://fdu.bg.ac.rs/en/news/2021/06/fda-celebrates-world-music-day-with-the-international-symposium-female-leadership-in-music


This paper addresses the conference theme of cultural policies and global inequities. Women remain underrepresented in musical leadership in a similar way as in other fields of endeavor. Despite feminist movements, affirmative ac-tion, sex discrimination and awareness campaigns, women still lag behind men in leadership roles in most musical arenas. The number of women leaders of na-tions and companies is increasing in the 21st century and this is reflected in the music. However, there is still an under-representation of women in musical lead-ership. This paper examines how women negotiate the challenges of the leader-ship space in music. Existing research on women in music documents women composers and performers in anthologies, monographs, and feminist analysis. In the latter part of the 20th century, musicologists began to focus upon femi-nism and its role in musical composition through feminist analysis. Research exists on women composers and performers, but little has emerged specifically on women in musical leadership and how they face the challenges that women in other spheres of endeavor have faced. Whilst many women composers and musicians may have held leadership positions, the focus on their negotiation of leadership has not been addressed in any detail. I will specifically focus on women in musical leadership through the academic lens of contemporary man-agement theories and research into leadership. A case study methodology will be applied to empirical data gathered for this study. This research combines my particular academic interest in the areas of arts management and musicology

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Research Themes

Society and Culture

Priority Areas

Creativity, culture and artistic practice