The Grammy Awards made headlines this year for multiple reasons, from Diana Ross wishing herself a happy birthday at the end of her performance, to former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama making a surprise cameo. Emily Lazar also became the first woman mastering engineer ever to take home the ‘best engineered album (non-classical)’ Grammy.
This weekend, the Juno Awards will be handed out in London, Ont., and they too could have made history but it won’t happen. Over the Junos’ 48-year history, not once has a woman been nominated for the ‘recording engineer of the year’ award.
“I’m a little baffled by that,” audio engineer Jill Zimmermann told CityNews. “There are a lot that have been outstanding (and) that have done a great job on a lot of albums.”
Zimmermann is an audio engineer working out of Jukasa Studios in Hamilton. She has a pretty impressive resume — from working on July Talk’s Juno Award-winning album Touch to Alexisonfire’s highly-anticipated new material. Although Zimmermann said for the most part everyone has treated her with respect and as an equal, there are still moments where she is reminded that she works in a male-dominated industry.
“Last year someone said ‘you have worked here for four years, do you want to keep interning?’ And I’m like ‘I am not an intern!’ It’s this kind of assumption that always puts you a step back. And after a day of thinking about it, you then try and push even more to not be mistaken as someone’s girlfriend, or the secretary, or the intern.”
Less than five per cent of music engineers in Canada are women. Juno Awards president and Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences CEO Allan Reid said he is aware of the lack of diversity in the category.
“It’s a process that is going to take time to change,” Reid said from the Juno Awards office in downtown Toronto.
“I think in the technical fields you are slowly seeing a change. We want to make sure that young girls and young women have access to instruments in those kinds of programs when they are trying to make those career decisions early on.”
The male-dominated categories are not a new issue for the Junos or other awards shows. In 2017, Canadian singers Tegan and Sara issued a statement after they were nominated for three awards that year when they noticed a lack of diversity.
“It is with tremendous respect and absolutely no judgement of each nominee’s well-deserved accomplishments that we take this moment to address the disappointing number of women nominated in many of the various categories,” the statement read.
“In eight categories no women were recognized at all, and in over 12 additional categories only one in five of the nominees included a woman. Specifically in the areas of production and engineering, it is discouraging to not see a single woman represented”
Fast forward to 2019 and not much has changed. Every producer nominated this year is a man.
In the ‘rock album of the year’ category, every nominee is a man. Since that award was handed out for the first time at the Junos in 1996 only once has a female won. That was Alanis Morissette for her album Jagged Little Pill. Only once since then has a female led rock band been nominated.
Sometimes, the pendulum does swing the other way. Historically, the ‘jazz vocal album of the year’ category has included both men and women, but this year, only women were nominated.