American University’s Women in Audio (WIA) club creates a community for women and non-binary students pursuing careers in the audio technology industry. Professional audio engineers record, edit, and mix sound for media including music, television, and podcasts. According to a 2021 study by USC Annenberg, only 2% of audio engineers and producers are women. This lack of representation in the field led to the club’s formation.
While the club has existed for many years, Michael Harvey, Audio Technology program director, says that it was only formalized as a student organization in 2021. Since then, it’s grown to around 40 members and expanded its activities under the leadership of its executive board. On the aims of the club, Tessa Giasson (CAS, MA ‘24), vice president, says, “We all just want to be good audio engineers and to learn from each other. We created this space as a support system, that way we have people to come to who understand our experiences.”
In the Studio
In their weekly meetings, club members often work on recording and mixing sound in the studio and share feedback in a relaxed, supportive environment. One of the goals of WIA president Ivana Rasch Chinchilla (CAS, BS ‘24) is to expose more women to the audio industry and build their confidence. “We’ve gone outside of the audio technology program itself to reach women in many different majors,” she says. “For many students, it’s their first time in a studio. They’ve never recorded or mixed, but we get them in front of a mic, hand them cables, and get them behind a soundboard and teach them how we do it.” Giasson adds, “We’re confident, and able to take the reins to lead other women.”
While providing education without the pressures of a classroom environment, the club creates space for members to share how they’re treated within the industry. “I feel so much more comfortable being in the studio with women only. Not because of anything men do necessarily—although sometimes we do face discrimination—but because of societal expectations about women’s involvement in tech,” says Rasch Chinchilla.
Turning Up the Volume
This academic year, Women in Audio has hosted new events including its first concert and in-person panel. They’ve also invited music artists to record and mix with them in the studio, including Arj, The Indigo, a Chicago-based hip hop artist, Treble in Paradise (AU’s first women and non-binary a capella group), and local DC bands. They’ve also partnered with AU’s student-run radio station, WVAU, and engineered live sound for artists Kate Bollinger and Meeks at the Tavern on campus.
In April, Women in Audio will host an industry panel featuring alum Carolyn Malachi (producer, engineer, and Grammy-nominated artist), Emily Lazar (Grammy award winner, master and mix engineer), Gena Johnson (ACM nominee, producer, and mix engineer), and Gloria Kaba (songwriter, producer, and mix engineer). The panel will take place in Kreeger G07 on Wednesday, April 5, at 7 p.m., and is open to all members of the AU community.
Harvey says he has noticed the impact of this supportive community among students in the audio technology program. “They’ve taken a proactive stance counter to the boy’s club perception of production audio. I’ve seen them benefit from the mutual support and perspective-sharing, as well as just the opportunity to have fun outside the classroom.”
Follow Women in Audio on Instagram at @women_in_audio and learn more about programs in Audio Technology in the Department of Performing Arts.