In the late 1970s, major US-orchestras had less than 5% women, in the 80s about 10%, in the 90s the percentage rose to 25% and today about 30% are women. The secret? With the change of gender constructions and orchestras' introduction of blind auditions into their hiring processes, the percentage started changing. In blind auditions, candidates play for a "gender blind" jury concealing their identity behind a screen. In order to make sure that the sound of their shoes do not tell their gender either, candidates are instructed to remove their shoes before entering the stage (via). Orchestras, however, are not the roots of gender construction in music. It is suggested to revise music education curriculum content encouraging women to play "male" instruments. Stereotypes, however, are not only created for women: "Frail women" on the harp, men in the brass section. In 2006, the first woman tuba player was engaged by a major US-American orchestra (Phelps, 2010). Applying blind auditions will not change gender constructions at their root, but they raise the probability that a woman will be hired by about 50% (Goldin & Rouse, 2000).
Goldin, C. & Rouse, C. (2000) Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians. The American Economic Review, September, 715-741
Phelps, A. L. (2010) Beyond auditions: gender discrimination in America's top orchestras. Iowa Research Online (via); photo via