The SWIM Fund: Supporting Strong Women in Music

By Andrea Pelloquin, West Music Company

Last spring the NAMM Foundation created the SWIM Fund, which stands for Strong Women in Music.  The fund was created to support women in the music products industry in the development of their leadership skills and aspirations.  The fund will support women by providing the following:

  • Professional development opportunities at The NAMM Show in both the winter and summer
  • Job-shadowing and mentoring with women who are industry leaders at trade shows and other industry events
  • In-company residencies
  • Invitation to attend an annual two-day SWIM leadership symposium in October 2019 at NAMM Headquarters in California

The SWIM fund and program was founded by three strong female leaders in the music industry: DeDe Heid (Executive Vice President – Heid Music), Crystal Morris (President & CEO – Gator Co.), and Robin Walenta (President & CEO – West Music Company).

The SWIM program has already sponsored events at both NASMD and the Summer NAMM Show and will continue to raise funds so the fund itself and its programs continue for years to come.   Listen to the podcast episode of “Talking Up Music Education” that featured the SWIM fund for more information.  Care to learn more or donate?  Click HERE!

A Personal Connection

I am currently working on a doctorate degree in Interdisciplinary Leadership through Creighton University.  When I began working at West Music in January the SWIM fund was just being created.  As soon as I heard about it, it sparked an immediate interest in me as a possible dissertation topic area.  Since then, I have been researching about gender bias, gender equality, and all types of issues related to women in leadership.  I want to bring this research to the members of RPMDA so it can both enhance the work of the SWIM fund, and also help the print music industry become more educated about these issues so we can be an even stronger source of inspiration for the larger music products industry.

Over the next few months, I will give you an update on the SWIM fund progress and activities, in addition to introducing you to some of my research to bring back to your own companies.  I hope to continue a conversation about the issues of diversity and inclusion in the print music industry because it is only when we become aware of issues that we can fix them.

Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers

You may be thinking that the print music industry is doing just fine with gender equality – and you may be right!  It does indeed seem that we have many strong women involved in print music.  But do we really know the numbers?  What is the percentage of women to men in your own organization?  What is it at various management levels?  Are we really as diverse as we think we are?  And what about the rest of the music products industry?  How do print music departments compare to other departments?  These are questions we hope to answer soon so we have some context to work from.

In the meantime, looking at the workforce through a broader lens, only 44.7% of the total S&P 500 company employees are women, and only 5% of those women have risen to the CEO level (Catalyst, 2018).  And there still exists a significant pay gap between men and women in all industries (in 2017, women earned 82% of what men earned on average, according to a Pew Research Center analysis).  So there really is still something holding women back from becoming leaders and receiving the same level of pay that men get.  The statistics prove that there are still issues – both institutionally and in the greater society – that do indeed hold women back (Pew Research Center, 2017).

I invite you to read this article from the Harvard Business Review called “Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers.”  This is an excellent introduction to the issues that women face in the workplace, such as second-generation bias, the double-bind, lack of mentors and sponsors, and more.  Many of the biases and issues mentioned are simply left over from previous generations – we’ve just never challenged them (second-generation bias).  But knowing about it is half the battle.  That is the point of this series of articles: to fuel conversations about inclusion and diversity in RPMDA, our organizations, and our industry.

More to come!  In the meantime, please feel free to email me with questions or comments.  I look forward to the ongoing conversation!  You can contact me at