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Women’s Advocacy Initiative

A space open to all CODA members with an interest in advocating for the unique place of female and female-identifying conductors.

The Women Advocacy Initiative of CODA (WAIOC) was established in 2020 by the female members of the College Orchestra Directors Association who recognize that the experience of female and female-identifying conductors is a different one from that of our male colleagues. WAIOC exists as a part of CODA rather than a separate entity, and is open to all female, female-identifying, and non-binary conductors, alongside our male allies – anyone who would like to gain a greater awareness and understanding of the potential challenges faced by non-male conductors, and who would like to be part of the broader conversation on diversity and inclusion as it relates to orchestral conducting at the collegiate level.

A simple glance at the CODA membership offers some insight as to why a safe and supportive environment for female conductors is essential. As of September 2020, female members in CODA number approximately 74, as compared with some 288 male members. In other words, women of CODA make up approximately 20% of the membership, or put another way, for every four male conductors, there is one female.

Young women conductors are often the only female in their graduate conducting courses and at summer masterclasses, often the sole female or one of very few at professional competitions and auditions. The overwhelming majority of orchestral conducting teachers and professors are male, meaning that aspiring female conductors typically lack a female mentor or role model. Often, the experience of these young women conductors is one very much removed from that of their male conducting teacher and peers.

We acknowledge this different journey as our initiative exists to support one another as well as mentor young women conductors entering the field. WAIOC meets regularly, typically 4-6 times annually and discusses issues and concerns pertinent to the conducting profession broadly, alongside specific challenges and issues faced in the collegiate environment.