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Gender and professional achievement: Turkish women conductors in classical music orchestras

Güvendik, Ecenu
Women’s position in classical music orchestras has been characterized by gendered representations and exclusion in conducting (as a male-dominated field). This thesis study problematizes the numerical underrepresentation of women as conductors in the classical music orchestras by focusing on the Turkish case. Based on the insights from the analysis of women’s situation as conductors in classical music sector in the West and the explanatory frameworks driving from a gender perspective, this thesis inquired into the education and career paths of the Turkish female classical music conductors to answer the questions of ‘Why there has been a scarcity of women among conductors in classical music orchestras’ and ‘Whether and in what ways women’s gendered experiences have created specific challenges and obstacles for aspiring women musicians in the long road to professional achievement and recognition in a male-dominated sector’. An interview survey with the Turkish female orchestra conductors (and selected male conductors) aimed at uncovering the experiences, perceptions and explanations regarding the impact of gender stereotypes and the challenges for women. The study contends that similar to the gendered dynamics in the Western orchestras, despite the existence of formal institutional barriers, women’s minority position within classical orchestras are shaped by a number of social, cultural and institutional factors. These highlight the lingering significance of gender-based stereotypes, roles and expectations, the effect of the scarcity of role models for women in the profession as well as the masculine norms which heavily associated with the identity and status of the conductor in the orchestras.