BreakOut West Achieves Gender Parity Four Years Ahead of Schedule

BreakOut West has fulfilled its commitment to achieve 50/50 gender parity four years ahead of schedule. The annual showcase music festival and industry conference for Western Canada committed to 50/50 gender parity at the annual conference and music festival by 2022 as partners in the Keychange Initiative. However, that goal was surpassed, with the event seeing gender equality for this year’s event in Kelowna, BC. The conference and festival, taking place from Oct. 10-14, will see 57 per cent female industry speakers and mentors, and BreakOut West performers across the weekend festival will be balanced by 50/50.

“We have had gender balance at top of mind for a number of years and we have been very close year to year,” says Robyn Stewart, executive director of the Western Canadian Music Alliance. “We believe strongly in the importance of the role model, and always seek to find diversity in the industry leaders and artists we engage. It is also exciting to see so many of our partners and funders prioritizing the importance of diversity in their support.”

Adds Christine Rogerson, president of the Western Canadian Music Alliance, “As an organization, we are proud to be leading the way in prioritizing the recognition and inclusion of women in our conference through a goal of gender parity. Women are accomplishing amazing things in this industry every day and it is important that our conference acknowledges their talents and models that opportunity for the next generations of musicians and industry professionals.”

BreakOut West was one of over 100 international music festivals and conferences that pledged to reach gender balance by 2022 through the Keychange initiative – an international campaign that invests in emerging female talent, whilst encouraging festivals to sign up for the 50/50 by 2022 goal.

“We’re thrilled that BreakOut West has joined in with our gender balance pledge for 2022, and that they have already achieved their goal this year,” says Vanessa Reed, Chief Executive of the PRS Foundation. “I’ve been really impressed by the interest from Canadian festivals in this international movement and I’m glad that the Keychange project is providing a way for people to work together and share ideas about inclusion and gender equality. I hope BreakOut West’s involvement with Keychange will inspire more Canadian festivals to join in and that the respect for this project will continue to influence change.”

Keychange will be presenting an industry mixer on the first day of the conference to help ignite business collaborations and success among female professionals. The mixer invites women attending BreakOut West to connect further over the weekend, and will feature a short presentation with Keychange partners, Francine Gorman of the PRS Foundation, and Charlie Wall-Andrews of the SOCAN Foundation.

BreakOut West will also host a special screening of the documentary, Play Your Gender, which features JUNO Award-winning musician Kinnie Starr on a quest to find out why only five per cent of music producers are women, even though many of the most bankable pop stars are female. The film will be screened on Sunday, October 14th at the Kelowna Innovation Centre.

“In 2011/2012, I was approached to make a documentary on Kinnie Starr,” says Starr. “But I started in music before the internet (and social media’s relentless demand for extroversion), so I’m not a big believer in shedding all privacy to build my ‘brand.’ A film about myself just sounded way too draining. I suggested instead that a film on gender inequity would be more captivating, and more interesting to create. My goal since before I was doing music, has been to uplift women and Indigenous people, so making a film where I was able to present many women and also some of my favourite Indigenous artists was a good fit. Now in 2018, gender parity is mainstreaming in conversation. That’s a win for society. I’m so grateful to my collaborators, Sahar Yousefi, and Stephanie Clattenburg, for co-creating Play Your Gender, and positioning us as a small part of a massive momentum.”

For more information, contact BreakOut West: 204-943-8485,

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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