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Subtle adjustments and radical changes: introducing the WIRED Toolkit

9th July 2024

After their engaging session at the inaugural Digital Innovation in Music Education Virtual Conference, Heidi Johnson from Yorkshire Sound Women Network tells us more about their WIRED Toolkit and the importance of creating gender-inclusive learning environments.

WIRED is a Yorkshire Sound Women Network (YSWN) initiative, run in partnership with several Music Hubs across Yorkshire and funded by Youth Music. The WIRED clubs offer girls and minority gender young people the chance to get creative with music technology in a low-risk, supportive environment, and they’ve developed all sorts of new skills – in recording, using DAWs, setting up PA systems, live looping, experimenting with synthesisers – and more. Those who have taken part speak warmly about their experiences and the new friends they have made, whilst music leaders have noticed participants’ boosted confidence with using equipment and software, and their increased awareness of careers in audio.

But opportunities like this can be hard to come by; a gender imbalance has been observed in music technology education since the 1980s, when technology was introduced to the music classroom to encourage more boys to study music [1], and on some level, an association of technology, ICT and male interest was understood and cultivated [2]. A key 2015 paper by Born and Devine describes a ‘leaky pipeline’ of female participation in music technology decreasing throughout secondary school, A Level entries and university enrolment,’ [3] and more recent analysis of A Level data from OFQUAL showed that between 2018 and 2022, 24% of A-Level music technology students were female [4].

YSWN commissioned researchers Anni Raw and Associates to find out more about the experiences of girls, women and minority gender young people in music technology learning settings – in particular, the reasons why some disengage from the subject, what that engagement/disengagement looks like during sessions and the ways in which educators can support them and create better learning environments.

The research raised an alarming range and regularity of negative experiences for girls, women and people of minority genders that either inhibit their learning, are driving them out, or offer new reasons why they don’t enter or remain involved with the audio sector. It also offered insights into gendered differences in signs and signals of engagement and disengagement during music technology learning.

Those who contributed to the research also offered up a wide range of recommended actions – from subtle adjustments through to radical changes – whether that be through supporting better visibility of women and minority gender role models, to challenging misogyny, to ensuring everybody in the room has hands-on access to the equipment and keeping explanations and discussions jargon-free.

The findings from this research, and practical strategies for educators to support gender inclusive learning, are shared in the WIRED Toolkit. The WIRED Toolkit has five parts, all of which can be downloaded in PDF form from the YSWN website:

  • Strategies from Educators & Learners: a booklet offering a range of evidence-based strategies for educators, with an accompanying Tips from Learners A3 poster listing handy practical actions.
  • Research Summary: a summary of the independent research methodology and findings, undertaken by Anni Raw & Associates through surveys, interviews and focus groups.
  • Literature Review: a summary of existing published research into the realities facing women, girls, and minority gender learners in music technology, learning which the WIRED Toolkit research builds upon.
  • Blocks & Barriers: a powerful collection of quotes and examples voiced by WIRED research respondents, attesting to the range of negative experiences they faced in music technology learning and industry settings.

We hope this WIRED Toolkit will spur all involved with music technology education to take some form of action to ensure the music technology field can become a more friendly environment for women, girls and minority gender learners.

To request a free printed copy of the Strategies from Educators & Learners booklet, which also includes the Tips From Learners poster, please fill out this form.

YSWN is also running free webinars on 16 & 17 July to introduce teachers, music leaders, Music Hub teams, and anyone with an interest in developing gender inclusive learning in their music technology setting to the WIRED Toolkit.

Finally please do get in touch if you’d like to work with YSWN or invite us to deliver training or CPD for your setting via

[1] Born, G., & Devine, K. (2015). Music technology, gender, and class: Digitization, educational and social change in Britain. Twentieth-Century Music12(2), 135-172.

[2] Comber, C., Hargreaves, D. J., & Colley, A. (1993). Girls, boys and technology in music education. British Journal of Music Education10(2), 123-134.

[3] Born, G., & Devine, K. (2015). Ibid.

[4] Data from Music Teacher magazine Freedom of Information request, published 24/10/2022