Author: laureljparsons

LP’s Last Post: Reflections on the CSW 2012-15

One day in July 2012, I received an invitation from Harald Krebs, then-SMT president, to take over from Patrica Hall as chair of the CSW. The timing could not have been worse: three days earlier, I’d hit a low point in my career and believed (mistakenly, as it turned out) that my days as an employed music theorist were over. So I told Harald that I didn’t think it made sense for the Society to give me a leadership role. His response was a model of simple Krebsian grace and kindness: “I don’t see why that should be a problem.” And so began three years of working with a host of wonderful people both on the CSW itself, across the entire Society, and beyond.

This period of the CSW has been something of a roller coaster, from the lows of the smt-talk debacle sparked by sexist music theory terminology in April/May 2013 to highs like our leadership of the opening plenary session at this summer’s SMA conference, an international panel entitled “Mind the Gap: Women in the Field of Music Analysis.” But roller coasters always end back down where they began, and this is definitely not the case for the CSW in 2015. For example, I note from one of my first e-mails to Harald that the CSW Facebook group had 115 members but was virtually silent; if someone posted a question or a link to spark conversation, often there were no replies. Today, it has more than doubled in size to 264 and is an active site for discussion, announcements, and sometimes wicked wit!

But our online presence expanded even more with the launch of this blog, thanks to the excellent work of CSW grad student representative Stefanie Acevedo. The home to many resources including our mentoring programs and “Share Your Stories” page, it’s now had over 4,000 views not only from the US and Canada, but the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, Finland, Austria, India, Italy, Singapore, Brazil, Hong Kong, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Belgium, Colombia, Turkey, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Micronesia, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway, Pakistan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Romania, Russia, Nigeria, Belize, Poland, and the Netherlands. Phew!

Our mentoring programs have tripled since 2012, when we only offered the proposal mentoring program that had been launched in the early 2000s. Now under the energetic leadership of Inessa Bazayev and most recently Rachel Lumsden, we also offer an Article Mentoring Program to boost women’s chances of publication success. And last year we added our Situational Mentoring Program, allowing all SMT members regardless of gender the opportunity to contact directly with the mentor of their choice to chat about gender-related career issues, anonymously if they wish.

“Share Your Stories” also allows all SMT members to anonymously share experiences related to women in the field of music theory. As more people contribute, we hope this will provide members or other interested individuals with a sense of the day-to-day issues still facing women in the field, as well as the rewards of a career in a vibrant field that is increasingly open to fresh perspectives. (Send in your story today!)

Finally, in response to continued reports of inappropriate questions to our members—male and female—during music theory position interviews, we’ve revived the process of sending out reminders to search committees. But in keeping with the intersectionality of these questions, we invited the Accessibility, Diversity, and Professional Development Committees as well as the Queer Resource Group to collaborate on a revision of this letter and to co-sponsor it from now on.

Throughout these past three years, the guiding words of the CSW throughout even the worst of times have been “constructive” and “solutions-focused.” In part through our efforts but also those of many others in the Society, women now represent 32% of the SMT membership, the highest annual result in its history, and while we still tend to under-submit research articles to our journals relative to that percentage, last year the numbers of submissions from women to MTO and MTS nearly doubled. Women also now represent 50% of SMT’s Executive Board and official committees, ensuring that we have a strong voice in its future directions.

Much remains to be done; just read a few of the shared stories on our blog if you need more convincing. But our meetings this past week at SMT St. Louis, led in part by incoming chair Jennifer Bain, generated some exciting new project ideas and I know the CSW will continue to play a positive, dynamic, and inspiring role in the Society.

In closing, thanks to all of my past committee members—Stefanie Acevedo, Sara Bakker, Inessa Bazayev, Jane Piper Clendinning, Eileen Hayes, Ted Latham, Wendy Lee, Charity Lofthouse, Rachel Lumsden, Brad Osborn, and Abby Shupe—for all your contributions. What a dynamic group of people I’ve been privileged to work with! Presidents Harald Krebs and Poundie Burstein, Vice-President Michael Buchler, Publications Committee chair Matthew Shaftel, and many, many others have also helped make this past three years terrifically rewarding. Finally, thanks to all of you for your insights, participation, and friendship.

That’s it for me—bye all. Now, over to Jennifer!


Laurel Parsons

“Mind the Gap!” The CSW Abroad

July 8, 2015 marked a highlight in the history of the CSW as we crossed the pond to lead the Society for Music Analysis conference’s opening plenary session at Keele University in England. Entitled “Mind the Gap: Women in the Field of Music Analysis,” our session explored such topics as the progress of women through the (leaky) academic pipeline from undergraduate to professorial levels in the UK (Anne Hyland, Manchester University), intersections of gender and interdisciplinarity (Stefanie Acevedo, Yale University), the role of the SMT CSW in improving the status of women in music theory (Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair), and the outstanding contributions of women analysts and theorists to the field (Amanda Bayley, Bath Spa University). Renowned music theorist Janet Schmalfeldt (Tufts University) ended the panel with an eloquent and rousing response. A lively audience discussion ensued, and over the course of the conference many attendees expressed appreciation to the panel for bringing to their attention both the shocking realities many women still experience in the field. Many also shared a new determination to work toward improvements in the status of women in their own professional environments, using the work of the CSW as an example. The SMA itself is committed to addressing gender imbalance, and toward this end its recent appointments to its editorial board were 50/50 female-male.

This plenary session was the brainchild of the SMA’s Nicholas Reyland (Keele University) who invited me to put the panel together. As conference organizer, Nick cleverly placed us at the beginning of the program in a room through which every conference attendee had to pass to get out of the registration and free breakfast room. There was no escaping us! Many thanks to Nick for his invitation and his warm hospitality at the conference, and to both the SMA and SMT for their assistance with travel costs.

Submitted by

Laurel Parsons, Past Chair, CSW

This Week! CSW Activities at SMT St. Louis 2015

SMT St. Louis is only a few days away! The CSW will be hosting two public events at this year’s conference.

Friday, October 30, 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Grand H): This year’s evening session, “Women (and Ideas) of Influence: New Prospects for Music Theory,” explores new paths of music-theoretical research that become available when we consider the actual or potential influence of women as creators and thinkers, both as individuals or through feminist approaches to music theory. In the first half of the session, speakers Rachel Lumsden (University of Oklahoma), Fred Maus (University of Virginia), and Vivian Luong (University of Michigan) will present three fascinating short papers, followed by a response from Ellie M. Hisama (Columbia University). Paper abstracts can be found on pp. 91-93 of the conference program (see link).

The second half of the evening will begin with an important announcement from Music Theory Online editor Nicole Biamonte. This announcement will kick off small-group discussions of new directions in feminist music theory, and we particularly welcome audience members currently working in this area to share their own work-in-progress. We hope this session will both inform participants of current developments, and stimulate exciting new projects for twenty-first century music theorists.

Saturday, October 31, 12:00-1:45 p.m. (Sterling 9): CSW Annual Brown Bag Lunch — We welcome all SMT members to bring a lunch and join in the always-lively discussion as we review the CSW’s activities in 2014-15, introduce our new Chair, Jennifer Bain, and plan for the coming year.

Hope to see you in St. Louis!

SURVEY: Hallowe’en at SMT

Trick or Treat! This year, the annual meeting in St. Louis conflicts with Hallowe’en, one of the most important dates on the children’s calendar. (Anybody want to write a guest blog post on this issue?)

In order to encourage SMT members with families to bring their children to the conference and ensure the kids can still have an exciting Hallowe’en with their parental units, the CSW is looking into arranging a group visit to one of the special Hallowe’en events held by St. Louis’s wonderful family-friendly attractions. (And you don’t have to be a parent to come along, as long as you bring your inner child!)

But before we can investigate further, we need your input! So we’ve created a quick, 5-question survey to gauge the level of interest and find out which event(s) members and their families would most prefer. The survey will be available over the summer, but the more responses we get in before June 30, the stronger our application for a subvention grant to help reduce the costs to participants.

DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY: Filling in this survey does not commit you to anything! We just need to get a sense of the level of interest before we write our grant proposal.

Not-All-Male Panels: Tips for Conference Organizers

My first post on all-male panels ( answered a reader’s question about how he should respond to an invitation to chair an all-male panel at this year’s SMT Annual Meeting in St. Louis. But what about future, not-necessarily-SMT conferences where speakers have not yet been invited? If you’re organizing a music theory conference yourself, how can you ensure the inclusion of women among invited speakers in a field where men outnumber women 2-to-1?

Here are some excellent tips from Feminist Philosophers (a sister or perhaps mother blog to What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?, the inspiration for our CSW site). The author(s) offer these suggestions to conference organizers, but also anthology editors and “anyone else who is putting together a collection of philosophers and finding they’re all male:”

“So, you’re trying to think of people to invite to your conference, and all the ones who come to mind are male. Well, there was one woman but she said she was too busy. You’ve read (perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere) about the harms this can do in terms of implicit bias and stereotype threat. So you’d like to avoid an all-male conference. How might you do this?
What follows are some suggestions:
1. Realise that the first names you think of are overwhelmingly likely to be male. This is exactly what work on implicit bias would predict. So if you want some female names, you’ll need to work a little harder. You might ask around a bit. Or you might look at the papers cited by some of the men you’ve thought of to find some women who work in the area. Neither of these is ideal, though, since the same biases will make it harder for others to think of women, or to remember to cite them. Perhaps a better idea is to search for your topic on [IIMP/Music Index/RILM], and see what women have written on it.
2. Studies have shown that women often need to have done a lot more to be considered successful than men do. There’s a good chance that you’re only thinking of super-famous women, while considering much less famous men. That is, you may well be setting the bar higher for women. So consider inviting some less famous women than those you first thought of. (This will also help redress injustice, since in many cases implicit bias will have been involved in these women being less famous.)
3. Don’t wait till the last minute to invite women.
4. If there really are not that many women in your field, perhaps consult with them first about dates. You have to ask someone first, so why not them?
5. Women are often at lower-prestige institutions, in lower ranked jobs. This means they’re likely to have less access to funds. (In a recent poll, we found that lack of funds was the top reason women declined invitations.) One way to make it more possible for women to attend would be to prioritise funding for those with less resources to draw upon. The super-famous often have super-big research accounts too. So go ahead and ask if they can self-fund. (If they’re offended by the question, they’re arseholes and you don’t want them at your conference.
6. Offer childcare at your conference. It’s not as hard as you think. [The CSW has found it’s not easy, either, but that’s a topic for another post. SMT does offer childcare grants to conference attendees, though; see]”

These tips are part of FP’s “Gendered Conference Campaign,” and–especially if you’ve been asking yourself “what’s the harm in having an all-male panels, anyway?”–I highly recommend reading their page explaining the reasons behind this campaign:

Finally, how could I not leave you with some music? Here’s a link to the Gendered Conference Campaign’s own theme song! (I think given our field, we should have a contest to come up with our own!)

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair

All-Male Panels at SMT 2015

Share Your Stories” (“SYS”) is a place where readers can submit stories of their own experiences with the assurance that readers won’t be able to comment on those experiences. That’s the rule, and it’s not going to change. However, the other day a male theorist wrote in asking for advice on how to respond to an invitation to chair an all-male panel at the upcoming SMT conference. His question prompted my last entry about how to post a question, because I realized looking over the blog that we hadn’t yet set up an obvious way for people to do that if they’re asking something relatively simple that might be of interest to a lot of readers, and they actually want to get an answer or start a conversation about it. Now that I’ve set up a contact page where you can send in your questions or blog post ideas, I want to address the question he’s raised. From now on, please send questions of this kind via our “Contact Us” page rather than SYS.

(Please go here to see the original Shared Story post.) So let’s get to the question of all-male panels. If a male theorist wants to support the increased presence of women on SMT sessions, what’s the best way of responding to a request for him to chair an all-male panel? (If you’re new to this issue, see the link at the bottom of the page to a good article in the Guardian a couple of years ago.) Personally, here’s my take on it, considering only the upcoming SMT conference in St. Louis — not conferences in general.

I would say that it depends on who’s organizing the session: has the Program Committee put it together from all the year’s accepted proposals, or is it an invited or volunteer panel set up independently by one of the interest groups? If it’s the Program Committee (“PC”), logistically it may be difficult if not impossible to ensure there is a woman presenting a paper at each and every regular session. This year, I’m told women submitted only about 25% of proposals to SMT (we’re still waiting for data on the acceptance rate, but in recent years it’s tended to match the submission rate). Moreover, there may have been no women at all submitting papers on a particular topic (or no men on another).

The PC — which itself has a much greater representation of women at 50% than the SMT as a whole — has more control over gender balance among session chairs. This year’s PC Chair, Joti Rockwell, has told me that so far women represent about 40% of St. Louis chairs (they won’t have final numbers until all invitations have been issued and responded to), well over their rate of membership in the Society. (He also noted that invitations to male chairs may well have been proposed by women in the first place, given the gender balance within the PC.)

Given all these constraints, and how close we are now to the conference, declining the invitation to a session organized by the PC because there are no women on that particular panel would almost certainly make no difference in the gender balance among the speakers. I would recommend asking why there are no women on the panel, and depending on how you feel about their answer, either accepting it having at least raised the issue, or declining it while also assisting the PC by recommending one or two women whom they might invite instead.

But what if the session is organized by one of the Society’s interest groups, where sessions may be organized more casually, either by invitation or by people volunteering to speak rather than blind review of proposals in answer to a CFP? I think wherever it’s possible in the remaining time between now and the conference, challenging the organizers to improve the gender balance on their panel is the way to go, whether that means suggesting additional women speakers, or declining to chair and recommending one or two women whom they could invite. Others may have different suggestions on how to approach this, and please note that these are my personal opinions and not necessarily those of the CSW — I’ll let individual members offer their own thoughts if they wish. Thanks to our reader for bringing this important issue up for discussion! Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair

How Do I Post a Question or Contribute a Blog Post?

Last week, we launched our “Share Your Stories” page, where readers can post their experiences. But since comments are disabled on that page, what do you do if you’re looking for answers to a question or want to start a public conversation? For now, just go to “Contact Us,” and send your question or blog post idea to one of the e-mail addresses provided. (Right now, on June 11, 2015, it’s my address — — but that will change in the next few months so if you want up-to-date contact info go to our contact page.)

If you’re asking a question, please let us know whether you’re ok with us answering it publicly (in a blog post with comments enabled so other readers can join in the conversation).

(If you’re looking for advice on a personal matter that you’d like to keep confidential, please see our Ask Me! situational mentoring page and contact one of our mentors.)

Coming right up — the question of all-male panels.

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair