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The toolbox is the everlasting and everchanging weapon-of-choice in the Genus-organizations fight for an accessible, adaptable, speedy and hopefully sustainable change towards gender diversity in the music society. It presents a summary of the conferences where so far there have been two.


The toolbox is arranged in subcategories which in themselves offer an overall idea of some of the areas where we think a change could and should happen. You can either choose to quickly read through the headlines and translate them into your own conception of reality or take a deep delve into each of them to further absorb the reflections and ideas that have been presented during the conferences in Kristianssand and in Denmark.


We hope that the toolbox will inspire you to see a potential for change in your environment, and we strongly encourage you to act on whatever you see relevant. Should you feel that the toolbox is somehow lacking in certain areas, or if some of the ideas or reflections seem unclear to you, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Thank you for reading.



We need to act on many levels and from many different positions in the music society and educational system to change the gender imbalance and inequality.


Everyone can individually and as an institution work from a relational level, a didactical level, a collegial level, an organizational level and on a society-structural level. When we discuss challenges and solutions regarding gender-issues it is therefore always important to be aware of the positions you can act from, and which tools are relevant to use or discuss in that context.


Furthermore we need to be aware that the topic is complex and wide-ranging, and that working gender issues usually also reveals a lack of diversity on other parameters such as race, handicap, nationality, valued competencies or socio-economic background. Sometimes these diversity challenges are so intertwined that it does not make sense to separate them, but we are convinced that any work for diversity will contribute to the overall goal of more diverse music and learning environments.


We also need to acknowledge and embrace the general structures in society. Sometimes these structures are the ones hindering or at least challenging our work for equality, diversity and non-gendered learning environments in the music society. The movement for more diverse environments and gender equality is therefore a movement we need to form with the rest of the society



  • Make it a norm to not assume someone’s gender. It’s better to ask than to misgender someone. 

  • Keep an intersectional perspective. People could be part of multiple minority groups and so doesn’t benefit from effort focused at any one of them. 

  • Don’t forget about genders other than man and woman! Make sure your efforts and discussion include everyone.

  • Don’t stress and try to make an as big as possible change to as many people as possible immediately. This could turn into discouragement. Start with focusing on your immediate environment and what change needs to be made there.

  • Explore opportunities for structural change that changes the overall culture of your institution to be more including and diversified. Small scale change is important but do also focus your efforts on a more zoomed out perspective.




  • Remember that teachers and leaders are responsible for the traditions that gets passed on to the next generations. When you are in power you can make a change.

  • Always think about gender when hiring. Teachers/staff tend to stick around for many years once they have secured a nice job.

  • Consider trying to redistribute tasks and workload - maybe by changing some of your fulltime employments to parttime. Most institutions are very small and more part time employments increases the potential for a more diverse staff. 

  • Strive for equal representation when hiring guest lecturers and substitute teachers.

  • Establish search committees responsible for securing gender diversity when recruiting new teachers and guest lecturers to the institutions.

  • Consider creating platforms for exchanging music where you expose artists with diverse backgrounds. Make it available both inside and outside of your organization.

  • Accommodate teachers/staff with a wish for further education in diversity, norm-critical thinking etc. 

  • Accommodate teachers/staff that are spending more time preparing their classes because they are actively searching for or developing new, diversity-focused educational content. 

"As a student it can be difficult to speak up against structures, express criticism and give feedback to the institutions, because you feel that you have to be extremely grateful to have passed the audition and to have received a spot at the education."

  • Create and facilitate more interdisciplinary cooperations and discuss your challenges with other cultural organizations. You would be surprised what you can learn from a small art school. Gender-related issues are not unique to the music society and it's institutions.

  • Establish a national committee that can form guidelines for audition panels to increase focus on gender neutrality, or at least cooperate more inbetween the institutions on this topic.

  • If you are - or would like to be - an inclusive organization that is open for everyone, you should highlight this in your promotion. 

  • Schools: Reevaluate the didactical framework of the different educations to make sure they are still relevant. We need to educate students to become part of the music scene as it looks today! 

  • Do not necessarily expect or force the minorities in your organization to highlight or solve any problems with diversity or inclusion that you might have. Convince the majority to share the burden.  

  • Try to represent a diverse range of people on stage when planning concerts and similar. People tend to invite others similar to them to play on stage. At the same time, people are more likely to get inspired and seek the stage light if they see people like them on there. 

  • Think about dress codes when it comes to concerts. Are your dress codes usually gender normative? Is anyone excluded in the choice of clothes? Is it necessary to strengthen these norms? Can more androgenous or norm breaking clothes be used instead? 

“Whether feminism is seen as controversial depends on your environment.” 

  • Work on policies and discuss/decide the values of the institution, so that everyone at the institution knows how to handle sexism, racism and other kinds of discrimination. Let everyone know that the organization has decided to have an open dialogue on these challenges and issues.

  • Discuss how you are going to integrate minorities before reaching out to minority groups. For example you should make policies about racism at the institution before there is a specific outreach to ethnic groups or refugees. 

  • Create networks of female musicians that could be a resource for students and staff both in mentoring and teaching. Include alumni and professionals despite the lack of official education as long as they are active in their field. 

  • Ask yourselves: Does your organization actually (try to) embrace the diversity of your students, staff etc. And do you support, develop and benefit from this diversity? 

  • Ask yourselves: Is it important to your organization to reach out to minorities? If yes - what are you doing to make it happen? Does it work?



“First I have to play my role as a woman before I can play my role as a musician. “

  • Facilitate regular, mandatory courses regarding mental health issues (e.g. stress, panic attacks, depression, mental fatigue) and occupational injuries (e.g. tendonitis) to help prevent, recognise and cope with the symptoms. These courses should be held by competent professionals.

  • Create an environment where students are encouraged to talk about their problems by removing stigma around mental health problems.

“The general expectation in society of more perfectionism from girls might prevent girls from continuing to play music when they become teenagers because it feels tiring to need to constantly claim your space, prove your worth and do well. You then easily lose the playfulness and joy of being in music. Female musicians often need to prove themselves more than male musicians to get accepted, valued and seem interesting as artists. And to be “as good as the men”, when you are a woman, often translates to being better than the men. Nevertheless you then risk at the same time, that the men can get afraid of you and think of you as a threat.”

  • Know where the professionals that work with playing related injuries, mental and physical health, are located and aid students/staff in seeking out professional help.

  • Create an online ‘alarm-button’ available for both students and employees, to make it easier to address sexual harassment or other sensitive critique of the institutions, to protect and support whistleblowers and victims. (Example: )

Teacher Qualifications



  • Seek further education and help raise awareness on issues concerning gender balance, e.g. norm-critical theories and thinking. 

  • Create inclusion by showing that you are not perfect yourself! Dismantle the image of being an omniscient oracle. Be honest and generous. Show (don’t tell) who you are, and be interested in the subject and the student. Be less verbal and more musical in your communications. 

  • Be a mirroring teacher. Focus more on questions and inspiration, and less on answering everything. 

  • Try to be open to and take in criticism without feelings of defensiveness. 

  • Be aware that your personal perspective and bias is always a part of your teaching. Be conscious and active in including other perspectives into your lessons, e.g. by cooperating with teachers who are different than you on various parameters (could be; field of knowledge, culture or gender) or trying to reach out to a broad teachers network. Especially in subjects based on assessment.

“It can feel like a burden when I share something about gender imbalance or diversity in foras with only men, and I then ask myself: How would it have felt if I had been a minority sharing these things in a group” 

  • Be extremely careful not to reproduce (gender) stereotypes

  • Observe other teachers at your faculty and have them observe you. A new pair of eyes and ears can sometimes be the easiest way to spot any (unintentional) use of gender biased language, content or dynamics in the classroom. 

  • Focus on finding out what the student really needs to learn or do - and why. Many teachers pose ambitious goals on behalf of their student, but be aware of the potential for stress and perfectionism. They are known to be the worst process-stoppers! 

  • Be aware that paying constant and special attention to the minorities in your environment might lead to further estrangement. Think of diversity and inclusion in a broader perspective and as something that everybody is a part of. 

“I was thinking about the role of a teacher as a mostly dominant person, but a teacher has to be so sensitive with everyone, and that is perhaps not possible in big groups, like the ones in schools for example. A teacher should be a person who creates a good environment and makes everyone feel included.”

Educational content



  • Make female and minority musicians visible by including them in the curriculum. Do your best to actively investigate and find a diversity of examples and references in your educational content to be able to balance the “norm” of the music that is traditionally spread. 

  • Create encyclopedias that showcase for example female instrumental role models. 

  • Present a wide range of perspectives in your lessons by using your colleagues or a broader teachers network as guests in your classes. 

  • Consider focusing on creation and creativity, and not so much on teaching techniques or craft. The children/students might become more eager to learn the techniques later, because they realize that they need them to be able to create.

“Music opens up the world and connects us as individuals and groups. We grow together through music, and music is a way to "play" and express yourself in just the way you need and want to. People might tell you that you are right or wrong in a lot of ways. But at your own core you have something that is just yours. A gift like no other, that can never be wrong. There is joy, reflection and insight to be found through music, and you should feel free to pursue that, if you want.”

  • Be aware that you probably have an inner hierarchy in preferred or valued genres. This should not affect your teaching or the content, you present.

  • Consider how you value different aspects of music performance and composition, and if your valuation might be in the way of providing good teaching to a diversity of students? For example - technical qualifications, considered masculine values, are traditionally valued higher than more female values such as expression, originality and fragility.

  • Focus on the body. A challenge in achieving perfection in music is often aligned with the emphasis that is put on ‘logical’ learning, which is considered a masculine value. Engaging with music through the body can be both fun and extremely beneficial in creating inclusive content. 

“Male” expressions are still seen as the norm - something that females should aspire towards. Therefore working on “de-stereotyping” male student environments could benefit all genders.”

  • Consider supplementing existing subjects with an awareness on the gender related problems in the music industry. 

  • Include courses that continues throughout the education where issues regarding gender balance are discussed (Example: “Music, Gender and Sexuality” – an existing course at UiB. 

  • Consider whether you could approach your teaching in a more holistic way?

  • Arrange courses focusing on entrepreneurship and career-planning.

 “When I started playing the double bass all my teachers were men and all their teachers were men. And therefore bigger and taller than me. They taught the same technique that they've been taught, and it was totally wrong for me, since I'm not as big or tall as them. It got to the point when I couldn't play for three months because I had used the wrong technique for a long time.”



  • Avoid labels like 'wild' boys and 'silent' girls. Maybe avoid labels in general. They tend to add to the negative stigma.

  • Mandate the use of gender-neutral pronouns or a person’s name when referring to them and not knowing their gender.

  • Don’t make comparisons “like a girl” or “like a boy”. When we compare to gender, we imply that the person in question is breaking a gender norm, and so strengthen those norms in the process.

  • Think about what you name and how you define your communities if you want to include everyone. 

  • Reevaluate gendered language in official documents regarding the organization (website, letters of application etc.), and promotion material. Represent all people, make sure everyone is depicted on the same basis regardless of gender and avoid describing someone’s looks or clothes if irrelevant. Avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes.

  • Avoid identifying by gender. Use section names like “first violins” and “sopranos and altos” rather than “the girls” or “the boys”. 

  • If you are - or would like to be - an inclusive organization that is open for everyone, you should highlight this in your promotion. 

  • Avoid adding gendering attributes unnecessarily. It’s often not useful to specify “a female/male musician”. It can bring to the persons gender rather than achievements and capabilities.

  • Think about how you use and talk about gender statistics. Statistics can be a useful tool but presents a quite binary and or black and white picture. Often reality is more greyscale and using a black and white language doesn’t add much value.

“To me it was very important to have someone likeminded to share my interest for music with. At the school I went to, it wasn't very popular to be playing music, but we were a small group of 5 people who shared music as an interest. If that hadn't been the case, I'm uncertain if I had been making music today.  I identify as a male and at my school it was only other males who were interested in music. I think it would've been very difficult to maintain my musical interest if I hadn't been automatically included in that community due to my gender.”


  • Make sure that your juries are gender diverse and that they, especially in higher music education, include student representatives and/or alumni. The composition of the jury should be stated in the audition invitation to create a safer first encounter with the institution. 

  • Change representatives of the audition panel each year.

  • Include members of different musical backgrounds and instruments in the panel. In auditions for music education we look at the applicant's potential. This makes a diverse panel extremely important, as the judgement is heavily based on the panel’s imagination, which often comes from personal experiences.

  • Make your application process equally easy and approachable for everyone. It’s easy to feel alienated when entering a room dominated by a gender different from yours. Try to diversify the people the applying student will meet during entrance exams. This way more applicants will feel welcomed, and everyone gets a more equal chance to do their best.

  • Educate the jury to reach a common understanding of what is required of the applicants and how the jury members own bias might affect the process. This includes knowing which qualities the institution wants to emphasize during the different parts of the selection process. 

  • Consider creating a manual of general questions to be posed at all the interviews. Consider leaving a little space for individual questions as well. 

  • Make the audition expectations clear to the applicants, and make the audition process transparent and well described. 

  • Decide what skills you look for in an applicant and how they are defined. Think about technical skill, artistic skill etc. Make sure that what makes up a deciding factor isn’t tainted by gender bias.

  • Discuss whether your PR-material is designed to attract the applicants you want. 

  • Consider making it possible to have digital/video applications. Digitalization might minimize gap by lowering the threshold, but be aware that technical competencies might affect the product more than the actual playing. An idea could be to let everyone apply with live recordings from a phone. 

  • Consider blind auditions as a way to neutralize the gender aspect in the audition process, as they have done with success in the classical environment when hiring musicians for classical ensembles. The digital auditions could also be made anonymous. 

  • Discuss whether it is important to asses music theory skills as part of the entrance exams. Theory can generally be taught much easier than artistic expression. 

  • If the applicants are required to perform music from a pre-determined setlist during their audition, this list should;
    - represent artists and composers of different genders.
    - represent different music styles and genres

  • Offer a gender equal audition support band if it is possible.

  • Let applicants choose if they want to use their own musicians during the audition.

  • Revise the admission data every year in order to track the progress of gender balance. Use the data in the strategic planning for the institution.

  • Have a neutral committee with an outside perspective regularly review the audition process. 

  • Offer in-depth follow-up conversations to the applicants who were not admitted, pointing them in the right direction.

  • Focus on outreach to minority groups. Make the institution and the music society in general more visible in new environments and make the institutions visit minority groups/communities. 



  • Highlight and “create” new role models. Make them visible on all digital and physical platforms, and include an awareness on rolemodels in the promotion material.

  • Reflect on the music you listen to. Is there an overrepresentation of a certain gender when it comes to the artists composers you listen to? Could this in turn effect your teaching?

  • Be aware that it can be difficult to asses the importance of minority role models if you are part of the majority. 

  • Being a part of the majority often comes with a special kind of power that can be used to benefit the minorities. Be a role model to the other people in the majority by switching your focus to helping others less fortunate. 

  • Help position older students as role models for younger students. When you are a young girl playing an instrument, maybe the most important role model is not your teacher, but the the 4 year older female musician attending the class before you.

Role Models

“Cecilia Ferm Almqvist mentioned the (very established) Male Gaze several times, and this fits with the statistics of more women in symphony orchestras, a role which can be seen as anonymous and subordinate compared with e. g. being lead guitarist in a band.”

  • Do not underestimate the power of imagination. If kids do not see themselves in books, TV, or in the profession they want to be in, then it might become impossible for them to imagine themselves as a part of that world. 

  • Be careful not to "tokenize" students of colour, queer students, disabled students, female students etc. There is a fine line between a diverse mix of students represented in your PR-material or at concerts, and a one-sided focus on minorities.

  • Don’t label or spotlight female or gender minority artists and composers as something unusual or special. Talk about them as much as male artists/composers, but also in the same natural way. 

  • A role model doesn’t have to be someone that you can mirror yourself in on every parameter, but the shorter the distance is to the person you are referring to, the easier it gets to translate and relate to the actions. 

“I have met the most challenges when trying to find musicians to play my music with me. There is a certain power dynamic between men and women, and I feel like I have to prove that I know what I am doing all day, every day. When I show up at gigs I have sound engineers talking to me like I have no idea what I am doing. People judge me (a female singer) a lot by my appearance and behaviour, way more than my male colleagues who are mainly judged by their music. I feel I have to be extra assertive and loud to be taken seriously and because of that, I have had people say that they don't want to include me in projects, because I am "troublesome". I have definitely lost some chances by being a loud woman. This would not happen if I were a man, then I would more likely be seen as confident."

  • A role model can be an inspiration in terms of the music you are creating, but it can also be someone who shows you how you can be as a person.

  • Remember that role models at festivals or in TV and radio only represent a subtle nuance to the rich, meaningful life, you can have with and in music. 

  • Consider including (female/coloured etc.) students from higher music educations as teachers when organizing annual band-camps for girls to provide good role models for the young musicians.

“I have been singing my whole life and later also studied singing. I also used to rap a lot as a young person and I had a hard time getting into the bands as it was mostly guys making bands, and I did not have the imagination at that age, to try to form a band with my girlfriends. I somehow thought I needed guys to play the instruments. I would have loved to get to know other girls in music.”



  • Consider that some instruments easily attract new players (piano, guitar, drums etc.) while other instruments might need a political and financial push (horns, flutes, marimba etc.). Help your culture schools etc. offer specific courses that focus on a broad variation of instruments. 

  • When aiming for gender balance within an orchestra, don’t only look at the numbers but also representation within specific instrument groups.

  • Establish a national committee that offers guidance in gender neutrality for institutions.

I am thinking a lot about gender and diversity in every project I am part of, and I mention the importance of diversity where I can. I also say no to projects if I feel these demands are not met, or if these values are not shared by the people suggesting the project.”

  • Organize specific PhD programmes/positions with focus on gender study at the universities/conservatories in your municipalities/countries. 

  • Create an option for a subject regarding gender study in popular music at a masters level.

  • When bringing up gender issues, involve a broad group in the conversation. Policy makers, academics, musicians, the general public etc. 

”Crucial dilemmas: Boys DARE to claim the space, but female musicians often think; “Am I asked BECAUSE I am a girl / Am I NOT asked because I am a girl?” And where does that leave us? (the music professionals). When gender becomes the primary focus - it also gets in the way.”

Learning Environments



  • Focus on creativity! This will generally appeal to a more diverse group of students than learning specific musical skills in a specific genre. The teacher should focus on creating a space that is open, inspiring and nurturing.

  • Make sure that the culture and discussion about gender at your institution is transparent and easily assimilable so that new as well as exchange students can take part and be included.

  • Let the students teach each other while the teacher facilitates an open environment and helps the student-contributions reach a higher level.

  • Remember that limitations, clear structures and well-thought-out frames in a learning environment can create freedom.

  • Consider whether your teachings might benefit from a norm-critical perspective. It can sometimes help us see and change constraining structures and norms instead of trying to make individuals fit the mold. 

  • Make sure that there are systems in place for students and co-workers to safely and anonymously blow the whistle on or call out unacceptable practises.

 “I thought it was more respected to play with men. Now I challenge myself to play with more women. It gives me a chance to see myself “from the outside.“I have repressed my gender to be able to perform”

  • Be aware that sometimes a student just does not want to be recognized as something special – sometimes you just want to blend into the group. 

  • It is important for everyone - teachers, leaders, staff and students - to feel safe, welcome and connected to the institution.

  • Strive for all educators and personnel to feel comfortable when they meet their students in discussion about sexuality, consent and relationships.

  • Transform your music classroom into a playful, colourful and cozy space. A couple of posters, rugs, lamps, and a couch might work wonders in creating a more inviting environment. 

  • Camps can be a great variation to the weekly music classes. They often contribute with a social aspect and a focus on community which is very important for younger learners. 

“It's important for especially girls and non-binary persons to have a safe space, such as segregative camps. A space where they can be seen and are not compared to the boys all the time. Not being forced to be louder because otherwise they wouldn't get any space.”

  • Focus on finding out what the student really needs to learn or do - and why. Many teachers pose ambitious goals on behalf of their student, but be aware of the potential for stress and perfectionism. They are known to be the worst process-stoppers! 

  • Experiment with creating a mental and physical connection in the group at the beginning of each lesson. You could for example do a body/mindfullness exercise together.


  • Consider creating an environment where rotating between instruments is a natural part of the ensemble teachings. It can especially be beneficial in the earlier encounters with music. 

  • Consider changing the formats in which you present early music teaching. Should it always be required or expected to sign up for a year, or could you see any benefits in developing shorter camps of concentrated learning, or weekend getaways with the parents helping out with food, transport etc.?

“It would have made a big difference for me to have had more female teachers in the fields of band playing, improvisation and composition. Music camps for girls only do not solve all our problems, but for now, I think it is a necessary supplement to the current music education possibilities. It's a place for minorities in this field to become majorities.”

  • Establish a multi-cultural focus when creating your learning environment. E.g. by reaching out to different communities, collaborating more with public schools, or creating multi-cultural happenings. 

  • Consider whether it is actually important to evaluate the ideas and the "musicianship" of your young students. Sometimes praising the ability or courage to try something is all it takes. 

  • Try to implement physical movement and an attentiveness to the body when teaching subjects that are usually connected to sitting behind a desk. E.g. Musical Theory and Ear Training. 

  • Consider making creative assignments, music creation and improvisation the cornerstone of your teaching. Studies show that a focus on creativity can be a beneficial, inclusive entry to the wider world of music (Maud Hickey amongst others)

“If girls just "mirror" the pop culture, the media, the music industry, their elder sisters and brothers - the norm - they risk falling into the gender bias, where girls are singing, being nice and sweet. I have experienced in public school, that if I divided the boys and girls in the ages from 10 - 14 - then they performed freely... they dared do all kind of things, loved to try every instrument, learned the technical stuff, the mixer, chords ... they dared to be physical, jump, yell and have FUN!”

  • Be attentive to youth at age 12+ as they enter social groups governed by gender. There is a tendency for this to be the age where they start to form bands where minorities and girls are not always included.

  • Review the Framework for Curricula for music subjects in primary school with an updated focus on diversity and inclusiveness. 

  • Create a direct and active link between pre-higher education institutions and organisations who are working for gender balance and equality in the music industry (Example:

“Music for me was a social thing - it was about being part of a group of friends. It could just as easily have been any other activity.”

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