We recently shared the news that Susanna Mälkki was named the chief conductor for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Reuters just published an article and interview with Mälkki which address all of the to be expected questions about being a “woman conductor”. To her credit, Mälkki responded with grace:
“Maybe one day we will have reached a point where we won’t have to discuss the gender issue at all,” she said with a smile.
But we do have to discuss gender, because it continues to be relevant. The lack of women in high ranking positions in today’s orchestras is notable, and the “woman conductor” debate rears its ugly head almost as often as the “why no women composers?” question. There is much work yet to be done. Again, from the article:
With all that happening for her, it might seem the glass ceiling is well and truly smashed, but Malkki said there was still some distance to go before women are treated as equals.
“The expectations are different … they can be higher, they can be lower. Of course, neither is good,” she said. “But all communication is two-way, and this question is not just about one’s skills or vision but also about how others perceive it.”
“Then again, 20 years ago when I started conductor studies, I think no one could have imagined this appointment would happen this year,” she added.
Congratulations, again, to Mälkki for her continued work and new position. I’m sure we’ll all look forward to watching her career continue to develop, as well as for the time when the “woman conductor” question is no longer relevant.