You all know this story, right? And Mary Anne Mohanraj mentioned it during the panel itself. But I'm going to tell it again.
Symphony orchestras--the big ones, the world-class ones--have no percentage in excluding excellent musicians. They want the best, and that's where their interests lie. No one was ever saying "Well, we'll take Bill even though Jane is a little better, because Jane has girl cooties."
Still, for years and years, there were very few women in the big orchestras. The folks who made the decisions said--very honestly--that they weren't trying to exclude women, it just turned out that women didn't play quite as well as men. It was sad, but that was reality. They only wanted the very best.
Then a number of orchestras switched over to blind auditions. Why? Because favored students could--and did--get hired more frequently than someone without connections. The adoption of blind auditions addressed that problem, but it also had a huge effect on the number of women hired. (Link is a PDF)
Since the early l980’s the share of female among new hires has been about 35 percent for the BSO and Chicago, and about 50 percent for the NYPhil, whereas before 1970 less than 10 percent of new hires were women.
Like I said. It's not like directors or selection committees were sitting there saying, "Oooh, girl cooties." They truly wanted the best musicians. But knowing a given musician was female actually changed their perception of the quality of the music they were hearing, without their being aware of it.
Of course, they couldn't fix it until they actually did something to address a bias. Sure, the bias they were addressing wasn't one against women, but imagine if they'd just sat there, still saying "but we're not biased at all, we only want the best musicians"?
They wouldn't have actually had the best musicians.
Part 2 Slush
Part 3 Ann Likes Red
Part 4 Bias Is Inherent in the System
Part 5 Women Write Different Stories From Men?
Part 6 Fight for Your Right to Party
Part 7 Ending on Felicitous Seven