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Guest column: Tough time for women to begin careers

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a double whammy for young women eager to launch their careers.

Young people in general have had their job searches stymied by the recession. Meanwhile, women of all ages have seen their careers impacted negatively more than men by the events of 2020.

But despite the challenges, there is hope for women starting out who want to make a mark, even in male-centric industries, said Deborah Fairchild, president of Nashville-based VEVA Sound, which verifies and archives projects in the music industry.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” she said. “But if you can avoid becoming discouraged, and can face the world with firm determination, the opportunities will be there.”

Fairchild, who started her career with VEVA Sound as an archival engineer in 2004 and rose to lead the company, has succeeded in an industry in which women are still under-represented.

For example, a 2019 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study looked at 700 popular songs and found that women accounted for only 21.7 percent of artists, 12.5 percent of songwriters and 2.7 percent of producers.

Fairchild offers a few tips for women launching their careers and hoping to move up in their organizations:

  • Be prepared to clean toilets. This could be viewed metaphorically, but in Fairchild’s case, it was also literal.

“When I started as an intern at a studio, I did everything they asked — even clean toilets,” she said. “To pursue a professional career in the music industry, you have to be prepared to pay your dues, starting at the bottom and working your way up. I imagine that’s true for a lot of other industries as well.”

  • Learn from everyone. Formal education is great, but once you’re on the job, you will discover how much more there is to learn from watching and listening to other people, Fairchild said. Just about anyone in an organization — from the lowest-paid employee to the CEO — has useful skills or knowledge they can share.

“Whenever you meet someone,” she said, “always assume they have something to teach you until they prove they don’t.”

  • Networking is a key, but not the key. Who you know is important. So is what you know.

“A strong network will give you opportunities,” Fairchild said, “but your knowledge and capabilities will be what give you a long-lasting career.”

  • Know when to pivot. At every stage of your career, stay sensitive to when it’s time to pivot, Fairchild said.

“The interesting thing about the music industry is that some things take generations to change, while others change on a dime,” she said. “The ability to discern when to move on or when to double down will set you apart.”

“The pandemic has made things tough for those just trying to launch a career, which means it’s more important than ever to stay positive and persevere,” Fairchild said. “Grab the opportunities that are there, and then make the most of them.”

(Deborah Fairchild started her career with VEVA as an archival engineer in 2004. She has risen to lead the company in all facets of the business. She has grown VEVA into a global entity serving major labels in North America and Europe, establishing offices in New York, Los Angeles and London in addition to the company’s headquarters in Nashville.)

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