UC Berkeley senior Ariella Sosis spearheads Womyn in Music project

Campus Spotlight

Nicole White/Senior Staff

Ariella Sosis is an ambitious businessperson whose ventures reflect her eclectic range of interests. The fourth-year Haas student wants to create a ridesharing app run for women by women and also leads her indie-folk band Golda out of Berkeley. One of her newest ideas combines her study of business with her lifelong passion for music to spearhead a new project called “Womyn in Music.”

According to Sosis, “Womyn in Music” is a project that spotlights women on the business side of the music industry who work to create empowering social change. Sosis uses the spelling “womyn” to be inclusive in her project. “(The word ‘womyn’ includes) every type of person on the spectrum of people that identify as women, especially those that don’t identify with the socially constructed meaning that ‘women’ carries,” said Sosis. “Additionally, it brings up the point that we do not need ‘men’ to complete us or legitimize us.”

From her experience in the music industry playing gigs with Golda, Sosis has noticed that a lot of bands are mostly groups of four to five guys. Very few of them want any sort of female voice in their bands. In an industry that is mostly male-dominated, it was a bit of a challenge for Sosis, who employs a lighter, singer-songwriter vibe, to book shows and market her sound. With “Womyn in Music,” Sosis was curious to learn more about how badass women in the music industry navigated to their current roles despite the prevalent gender inequalities.  

“I was expecting maybe two likes on Facebook from people that already knew me,” said Sosis. But since the project’s founding in early February, “Womyn in Music” has expanded its outreach in unexpected ways. More than 100 people, ranging from music directors to members of feminist networks, have already reached out to Sosis with interest in her project.

Sosis’ goal with “Womyn in Music” is to facilitate an environment for speakers to share what they have learned in their careers with a wider audience. “It’s not this one-on-one thing in a room where it gets forgotten there and I only learn from it,” Sosis said. “I want other women to feel like they can also do it and be a part of it.” Moving forward, she hopes to either be able to podcast her speaker events or write on them by starting her own column on a blog or music magazine. She wants to have a platform to leverage the scope of her project and reach even more people.

The inaugural speaker event of “Womyn in Music” on Feb. 26, which featured M.I.A.’s touring drummer Kiran Gandhi, was sponsored by the Business Careers in Entertainment Club. Sosis reached out to Kiran Gandhi by messaging her on SoundCloud, and she was pleasantly surprised by her interest in the project. “Something I really like about Kiran Gandhi is that she is both a businesswoman and a musician,” Sosis said. In addition to touring with M.I.A., Gandhi graduated with an MBA from Harvard’s business school last year in addition to running the 2015 London Marathon while free-bleeding.

Gandhi was not afraid to embrace her full self from the moment she stepped into the room. With her charismatic nature, she had the power to make people laugh while simultaneously discussing the unfairness in the music industry. After the interview, there was a jam session — a collaborative experience that had people drumming on chairs, water glasses and anything else that could be used as an instrument.

During the interview, Gandhi emphasized that we all already have tools and passions that can help drive our journey to success. She was against the notion that individual success comes from reverse engineering what other successful people have done to get to the same place. “You can definitely take lessons from other people, but I think the best thing is just to say, ‘I love to do this and I’m going to do it,’” said Gandhi.

Although Sosis looks to others for inspiration, she continually carves her own path in the music industry by not strictly following in anyone else’s footsteps. With Sosis’ dedication to her “Womyn in Music” project, the future of gender equality in the industry is in good hands.

Contact Nicole White at [email protected].