Why are Women Missing from Orchestras?

Despite the undeniable progress towards gender parity in the broader world, the concert stage remains an echo chamber of a bygone era. Orchestras and bands that grace the pinnacle of musical achievement continue to be overwhelmingly dominated by men, a persistent disparity that transcends geographic borders and exposes a deeper cultural reality. In exploring this enduring imbalance, EBR’s adjunct writer Meseret Mamo delves into the intricate web of factors that impede women’s representation as instrumentalists, fostering a critical discourse that seeks to illuminate a path towards a more equitable future for music performance. She explains why fewer women are involved in orchestral performance than men, even after increased enrollment in music programmes globally and why a similar trend in Ethiopia exists with less women pursuing musical careers despite graduating from music schools.

The 2018 political shift in Ethiopia initially sparked optimism for the advancement of women’s rights. Under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian government implemented reforms that garnered global attention. Women’s representation in leadership saw a dramatic increase, with half of the ministerial positions being filled by women and women taking the helm of the presidency, the Supreme Court, and the national election board. These reforms extended to regional and local levels, fostering hope of a genuinely inclusive future for Ethiopian women.


Africa is home to a remarkable group of top female business leaders making significant contributions and breaking barriers in various industries. These women are reshaping the continent’s economic landscape and inspiring countless others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. From Kenya’s Njeri Rionge, a pioneer in the IT sector, to Angola’s Isabel do Santos, the wealthiest woman in Africa, and Nigeria’s Folorunsho Alakija, a successful businesswoman in the oil and fashion industries, and Ethiopia’s Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, a prominent entrepreneur, has emerged as one of the top female business leaders in Africa.


Globally, women still earn an average of 23% less than men, according to the International Labour Organization. This translates to significant financial losses for women throughout their careers, impacting their ability to save for retirement, purchase homes, and support their families. In Ethiopia, the situation is even starker, with women earning only around 63 cents for every birr (37% less than) men earn for similar works in urban and worse in rural. This disparity not only limits the economic security of women but also represents a missed opportunity for the nation’s economic development. Women constitute a significant portion of the workforce and their full economic potential remains unrealized due to this imbalance. EBR delves into the reasons why closing the gender pay gap is an urgent necessity, exploring its economic and social impacts, and outlining potential solutions to achieve a more equitable future.

As a female journalist navigating the challenging terrain of a male-dominated sector, my journey has been marked by numerous obstacles and biases. From battling stereotypes to facing discrimination, I have encountered firsthand the unique challenges women in journalism often confront. The challenges I have gone through as a female journalist and breaking barriers in a male-dominated industry haven’t been easy.

I still vividly remember my entry into the journalism sector as a fresh graduate in Economics, armed with little knowledge about the inner workings of the industry. It didn’t take long for me to realize that deeply ingrained gender stereotypes would become a significant obstacle in my path. From the early stages of my career, I felt underestimated and deemed less capable than my male colleagues.


Naomi Girma, a rising star born to Ethiopian parents in America, is taking the football world by storm with her extraordinary performances on both the club and international stages. In a groundbreaking achievement, she was crowned the best women’s national team player in the USA in 2023, becoming the first defender ever to claim this prestigious award in its 39-year history. What’s more, Naomi’s triumph also marked a significant milestone as she became only the second black player to achieve this remarkable feat.

Naomi’s profound love for the beautiful game can be traced back to her father, who instilled a deep passion for football from a tender age. For Naomi, football has always been more than just a childhood pastime. It has been a powerful conduit through which she stays connected to her Ethiopian heritage. The vibrant Ethiopian community in the United States frequently gathers around the sport. Naomi found solace and a sense of belonging on the field, strengthening her bond with her roots. EBR’s Dr. Brook Genene delves into Naomi Girma’s mesmerizing journey as she ascends to the pinnacle of stardom.


A Legacy of Powerful Queens and Modern-Era Barriers to Women in Politics

Ethiopia presents a fascinating paradox. Its history boasts a remarkable lineage of mighty queens, exemplified by the visionary leadership of Empress Taytu in securing victory at the battle of Adwa against Italian colonizers. The story of Queen of Sheba and Empress Zewditu further paints a positive history of women as leaders in Ethiopia. Yet, despite this legacy, deep-seated cultural norms and religious beliefs often confine women to domestic roles. This, compounded by the prevalent issue of gender-based violence, creates a formidable barrier to women’s entry and advancement in the political sphere.

While Ethiopia holds a commendable position globally for women’s parliamentary representation, exceeding 40%, a closer look reveals a concerning reality. These seats are primarily filled through quotas rather than a robust system fostering organic advancement based on merit and capability. This crucial distinction exposes a fundamental flaw—quotas, while well-intentioned, often serve as a band-aid solution, failing to address the root causes of women’s underrepresentation. This approach ultimately limits women’s ability to exert genuine influence on policy formulation and decision-making processes.

EBR’s Iliyas Kifle delves into how these entrenched hurdles can be overcome. He proposes initiatives that tackle the immediate symptoms and the underlying factors perpetuating the issue.


Women Bear the Brunt of Trauma in Tigray Conflict

The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region was characterized by extreme brutality and widespread sexual violence, resulting in the victimization of thousands of women and girls. Despite the signing of a peace agreement, the issue of sexual violence remains unaddressed, mainly due to recurring famine and a lack of foreign aid. Survivors face significant challenges in accessing medical care and support, and many suffer in silence due to the stigma and societal taboos surrounding rape. In this article, EBR’s Samuel Getachew discusses the devastating impact of the war and highlights the obstacles survivors face in seeking assistance and addressing the issue.


Melika Bedri Mohammed CEO, Zamzam Bank

Melika Bedri Mohammed is the CEO of ZamZam Bank, Ethiopia’s first full-fledged interest-free bank. With a solid educational background in banking and finance, including a Diploma in Banking & Finance and a Master’s degree in Business Administration, Melika has honed her expertise in the intricacies of the financial sector. Throughout her career at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), Melika showcased exceptional competence and leadership acumen. Rising through the ranks, she held vital roles, such as Chief Finance Officer and Vice President of Information Systems, where she played a pivotal role in driving the bank’s success and spearheading its technological transformation. As the CEO of ZamZam Bank, Melika continues to lead the institution with dedication, navigating regulatory frameworks and fostering a vision of ethical finance in Ethiopia’s banking sector. Under her leadership, ZamZam Bank has introduced a pioneering model that aligns with Sharia principles while embracing modern banking practices. This approach has positioned the bank as a beacon of ethical finance, catering to the needs of a diverse customer base. In an exclusive interview with EBR’s Eden Teshome, Melika shares insights into her journey, challenges, and vision for ZamZam Bank’s future. With her wealth of experience and deep understanding of the industry, Melika provides valuable perspectives on the role of ethical finance in driving economic growth and fostering financial inclusion in Ethiopia.


YEMariam “YEMa” Chernet, an Ethiopian singer based in Addis Ababa, captivates listeners with her gentle yet powerful voice, showcasing her intimately forceful style and lush musicality on her debut album, “Yedega Sew.” Inspired by Ethiopian songs’ traditional fluttering vocal passions, YEMa skillfully brings them into a contemporary realm reminiscent of the accomplished Ejigayehu Shibabaw. Produced by Eyuel Mengistu, head of Yared School of Music, and featuring talented artists like lyricist Yilma Gebreab, drummer Teferi Assefa, and Kora player Jose Braima Galissa, YEMa’s album reflects delicate fusions and defies cultural boundaries. With a narrative between various instruments, including mesenko, dita, washint, philas, and kora, the album captures both reflective and fiery moments. YEMa, the daughter of a former music manager, grew up surrounded by music and began exploring her vocal talents at an early age. Her collaboration with Eyuel started in Ramada Addis, leading to various musical experiments and projects. YEMa’s voice and style have drawn comparisons to the renowned artist Gigi, but she embraces the honour and burden while striving to develop her unique sound and style. In an exclusive interview with EBR’s Eden Teshome, YEMa discusses her musical journey, influences, and aspirations.

Ethiopian Business Review | EBR is a first-class and high-quality monthly business magazine offering enlightenment to readers and a platform for partners.

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