International Women's Day: Pamela McCormick

We have come a long way from the tiny project that started 21 years ago in 1997 which seeded Urban Development, and so has the industry. UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce reported earlier this year that BAME representation is now just under 16% and women make up 45% of the workforce. Great progress is being made but, of course, we can always do more.

The Urban Development team is made up of strong and confident women at all stages of their careers. We work very hard to ensure we have diversity in gender as well as ethnicity on our education programmes and seminar panels.

However, as we move up the progression pyramid in the music industry, particularly in urban music, equal representation gets trickier. I welcome the vital movements supporting women in music and diversity – such as the Music Week Women In Music Awards, the work of SheSaidSo, Girls I Rate, as well as #TimesUp, #MeToo, #Vote100 and also the recent PRS Keychange initiative.

My early professional experience was based on opportunities seemingly presenting themselves because I was (and still am) a grafter. I started out in support and admin roles and was encouraged by my (generally) male bosses to take on new challenges, including single-handedly running a fairly big gig by Van Morrison not long into my career.

It took me a while to have the self-confidence to take on leadership roles – I was in my early thirties and had just arrived in London, having worked with artists and as a promoter/tour producer for going on for 10 years. I think it’s quite common for women to be supremely qualified and incredibly experienced before they dare to be ambitious. That comes from our sense of self-worth, and possibly even the ‘imposter syndrome’. We just don’t feel good enough or ready for the new challenges and promotions.

As a (divorced) mother, the responsibility of running a business isn’t easy: juggling childcare, especially when a lot of the actual music business and networking tends to get done in the evening, can be tricky. In spite of the positive changes to flexible parental leave arrangements, I’m not sure too many fathers in the workplace find themselves in the same position, facing daily childcare challenges. I reckon the buck still tends to stop with mums. I’d love to see a brighter light shone on the achievements of multi-tasking women leaders. Over the last ten years or so, I have seen improvement in gender equality in the workplace with more role models in the senior leadership levels and the C-suite. There has also been a huge groundswell of support for:

  • 50:50 gender balance and representation, in fact Urban Development has always worked hard to ensure as best we can equal representation on both singer songwriter programmes as well as DJing and music production courses.
  • Equal pay
  • Naming and shaming of sexual harassment and a campaign for industry wide change
  • Advocacy for more women in senior leadership positions and in the boardroom
  • Women’s networking and support groups and forums for sharing and exchanging skills and services

However, work still needs to be done for women working in the music industry. I’d like to see more positions of leadership, there is still a challenge in breaking through the ’old boys network’ and that will be done by better integration based on experience and a meritocracy, more training and leadership development programmes for women and more access to senior leaders including from different sectors.

I come from a family of shipyard workers in the famous Harland and Wolff docks in Belfast. I was the first person in our family to go to university. Even though my mum left school at 14, perhaps because of that, the transformative power and value of education were instilled in me as a child. I looked around me in 1970s Belfast and realised that inequality, poverty and lack of opportunity were actually at the heart of the troubles.

That vision for social and cultural change is what drove me to set up Urban Development, and that still drives me today. As Gandhi said, let’s work together to be the change we want to see in the world. We owe it to our future talent.

Pamela McCormick – Founder and Director of Urban Development

Main image: Pamela McCormick. Photograph by Chris Lopez.