In the last two years, Berklee Online, the largest online music college in the world, has increased female enrollment by 65 percent.
This is no accident. Since the advent of CEO Debbie Cavalier’s tenure in 2012, the college has been making targeted efforts to increase female enrollment.
Some of these efforts are as simple as including more images of women in marketing collateral so they know they’re welcome. But, most of efforts include deep-seated changes, especially to the faculty pool.
“I’m a big believer that you need women teachers so that women students can learn from them,” says Carin Nuernberg, vice president of academic strategy at Berklee Online. [They] see them as role models and get direct-hand experience and insight about how to take the next step in their career.”
Women at the Top
In the online school, Berklee offers bachelors and masters programs, as well as a la carte courses and certificates to fill skills gaps at any stage of a musician’s career. More women are teaching these courses than ever before. But, it’s not just about having more women present. It’s about having women at the top of their fields.
Susan Rogers, one of a small contingent of female audio engineers, has worked with high-profile artists, including Prince on his hit “Purple Rain.” She also studies how music affects your brain, a specialty she teaches at Berklee.
Rogers is one of many teachers brought in for courses of offstage skills. “One thing that we noticed is that the production side tends to be male dominated. We wanted to increase our female student numbers there,” says Nuernberg.
The flexibility of Berklee online is also conducive to mothers and students who are working or have other responsibilities. Though courses include deadlines, coursework can be done around the student’s schedule. This may be one of the reasons the growth at Berklee Online has been exponential.
Nuernberg says the Berklee campus program has implemented similar strategies, though it is growing at a slower rate. This fall, there is an 8 percent increase in female undergraduates joining the school.
There’s been a real rallying of staff members around Cavalier and her mission to reach women. New staff offices even have a health room for nursing mothers, something they previously lacked.
It may not be the musical matriarchy we’re dreaming of (like when Lizzo finally becomes President), but these efforts at Berklee are a huge step towards a more equitable music industry.