Acoustics

Top 10 Women Reshaping the World of Sound

1 January 1

In honour of International Women's Day, we'd like to highlight a few of the amazing women out there. While it is a male-dominated sector, many women have made an unforgettable impression on the industry. Furthermore, they are frequently working to redress the gender balance by encouraging more young women to join.

Women Working in Sound

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Everywhere you look, spaces are being designed and adapted to fit the changing requirements of the built environment. Rockfon acoustic ceiling systems help elevate the human experience with sound design. 

Women Reshaping the World of Sound

Highlighting their accomplishments is crucial because it reminds us of what we would have missed out on if they had not. The good thing is that these women are far from alone, so feel free to add to our list in the comments! 

The list is in no particular order. 

Alessia Milo

Virtual Acoustics Specialist, Treble Technologies (Iceland), Italy

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

I got into acoustics because of my early interest in sound and music, both the physics and the aesthetics. However, I was lucky because there was an optional module on acoustics in the architecture faculty. Going back to the origins, my parents were very creative with gender neutral presents: I received an electric organ when I was about 5, and a portable audio recorder with a microphone shortly after. I even found an ear simulation Commodore64 program on a floppy with my name.

What research/project are you most proud of?

I am quite proud of Eindhoven Acoustic VR Education (EAVR-Edu), an educational tool I have recently developed during my Post Doc at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). It aims to introduce acoustics to built environment students through VR and a hands-on interactive listening experience, which is of course a simplification of how sound really propagates. You can navigate your own designs while changing materials and sound sources. I think it summarizes well my skills and research interests over the years.

What research/project are you currently working on?

At Treble Technologies I am working on the development of new acoustic simulations tools making use of fast and accurate techniques. These tools can support acoustic engineers and architects in the future design of acoustic spaces and sound-related products.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

Anybody should think first whether they really like a topic, before choosing to work in one or another specific field. I never got tired of acoustics, reason why I am still here. However, either it being audio engineering, acoustics, or music technology, we need sound industry to give space to women because we represent half of the world. Research often shows that women can be more affected by annoying sounds, and this should surely be considered, when designing sound, acoustics, or soundscapes.

Margriet Lautenbach

Senior Consultant, Peutz, The Netherlands  

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

My career path is a bit odd. After riding dressage horses professionally for a couple of years, I studied building engineering in Amsterdam during which I got interested in building physics: what is the effect of the built environment on how people feel and what can we do in the design to optimize that. During my first years in building physics consultancy I found out that playing the saxophone and acoustics has something in common and with a job switch to Peutz, my career in room acoustics really got going.

What research/project are you most proud of?

I am very happy with a lot of projects I have done and do, especially concert halls and musical rehearsal rooms, but the Kulturpalast in Dresden stands out. It was an acoustically very challenging project, the first non-rectangular symphonic concert hall for which Peutz was the acoustical consultant. Apart from that it is always difficult to work in a foreign country with another language and culture. Germany seems so close to the Netherlands, but the differences are large enough to let you realise what it feels like to be the outsider. I think it would be a very worthwhile experience for everyone to work in a foreign country for a while, on your own. For me at least it was a very worthful experience, that changed my view of the world, of people.

What research/project are you currently working on?

I am working on different projects, and rigth now it's concerned around Komische Oper Berlin, Kammermusiksaal in Vitznau, Theater aan de Parade in Den Bosch and being President of the NAG, amongst others.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?'

Sound in general and room acoustics specifically is a very nice combination of ‘hardcore’ technical challenges, difficult modelling and measurement techniques on the one hand with a human touch on the other. In the end it is about people, how they feel, how they can enjoy music, either by playing themselves or by listening to it. And it evolves about quality: working in a team with the common goal of realising qualitative high performance buildings is usually a lot of fun, with a lot of different aspects and people throughout the process, from the first architectural sketch to the building process to the first concert. So if you are looking for a technical challenge but with a goal related to human beings, with loads of variation, this is really a nice job.

Hanieh Motamedian

Business Development Manager, Sound Directions, The United Kingdom 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

I remember fiddling with my new CD player in my first car (1991 Ford Fiesta) to try and get the best ‘sounding’ music – I can tell you it never sounded great. Now, I appreciate the sound of the garden a lot more. When I heard that Sound Directions were looking for someone to promote a better understanding of how sound affects us at work, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

What research/project are you most proud of?

I worked on a project for the Children’s Hospital in Dublin. The ward had ‘sleep rooms’ which were booked for 1 hour per child during a 24 hour period of diagnostic tests. As the sleep rooms were off a very noisy corridor, it meant that some children didn’t fall asleep in their permitted slot and had to begin the complete 24hour test again. With the use of a sound masking system we saw that children fell asleep much more easily giving their guardians and the hospital staff great relief.

What research/project are you currently working on?

Sound Directions are participating on The HPNoSS (Hospital Project on Noise Sound and Sleep) which seeks to provide a holistic understanding of sound in the hospital environment and the intimate relationship of noise to sleep, rest, treatment and recovery. You can imagine how important understanding this could be to people in such a vulnerable situation and to loved ones around them. The idea that sound can be negative and neutral isn’t new but considering sound as ‘positive’ is. How can a positive soundscape improve the recovery time or transplant patients for example? Watch this space!

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

By improving access to educational material from a young age and nurturing children’s curiosity in STEM subjects we can broaden the options earlier instead of waiting until university or later. As a member of the ISCVE (Institute of Sound, Communication & Visual Engineers) I am pleased to say that they provide careers guidance to anyone wishing to enter the world of sound or visual engineering and they also offer bite-size training on a range of topics. A career in sound can be anything from research to engineering or consulting to sales – and even all of them together! You can be freelance or work for a global company. The benefit of having a varied role is that no two days are the same.

Poppy Szkiler

Founder & CEO at Quiet Mark, The United Kingdom 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

My grandfather lobbied the Noise Abatement Act through Parliament, founding the UK Noise Abatement Society (NAS) charitable foundation in 1959 now in its 64th year. Today the charity is led my mother Gloria, we together founded Quiet Mark global certification celebrating its 10th anniversary this month helping fund the campaigning work of NAS. I’m a third-generation noise pollution campaigner and only really known this mission field growing up and seemingly could not escape my family DNA!

What research/project are you most proud of?

Establishing Quiet Mark over the past decade, starting from a vision at the kitchen table to become a global brand today, has been the most all-consuming business project of my life. It has been the toughest adventure climb, with some wonderful rewards, to now see passionate engagement from global industry across so many sectors dedicated to noise reduction as a top priority in product development to serve public health. Quiet Mark certified products are in easy reach now worldwide to specifiers, architects and consumers to quickly solve noise pollution problems or support on acoustic design.

What research/project are you currently working on?

Quiet Mark launched our Acoustics Academy online platform in 2020 to uniquely provide third party certification to acoustic products and noise reduction solutions for Build Sector specifiers worldwide. Some of the biggest issues of noise to tackle are in the way buildings are designed where acoustics need to be carefully considered from the outset.

By reasoning ‘acoustics first’ for healthy buildings Quiet Mark drives awareness of bespoke acoustic solution for every type of project. Developing this further, another milestone project in early planning is the creation of the first Quiet Mark certified housing development in 2023 towards a blueprint for future homes.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

Beautiful acoustics and excellent sound design is about caring for families and communities to help create most healthy, supportive, dynamic environments in which to live and work. Sound is invisible yet it has profound impact on health. Acoustics is an incredible creative universe all of its own to discover. Where acoustics are often not understood by the mass market there’s an exciting job to be done to translate the complex science of acoustics to relieve the stress and strain of global noise pollution and everyday unwanted noise. From technical creativity of new design solutions, to the communication and directional implementation of noise pollution strategies, the possibilities in the acoustics industry are endless, for the best reason to protect the health of future generations.

Eli Toftemo

Senior Consultant, Brekke & Strand Akustikk AS, Norway

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

Growing up I always took great pleasure in listening to music and playing musical instruments. In addition, I always liked the technical subjects at school. This led me to study at the university, where I found that acoustics fitted my interests well. During my studies I encountered first-hand how people can be adversely affected by a bad sound environment. I am now convinced that we can make a positive impact on how humans behave and how we interact with each other by creating a good sound environment.

What research/project are you most proud of?

Wood is a sustainable material, and a readily available resource in Norway. Because of this it should be considered used in new buildings. However, being a lighter material than the traditional concrete, wood involves some challenges when it comes to sound insulation. Lately I’ve contributed to designing the sound concept for a handful of school buildings where cross laminated timber is the main supporting structure.

Working closely with other team members and the entrepreneurs, we have managed to find solutions that exceeded our expectations. Sound insulation and room acoustics are of great importance in schools in order to provide great learning environment for all students, including those that have special needs. It follows that wood can be used in complex buildings with strict requirements as long as it’s used correctly. This opens up for a greener future for our industry.

What research/project are you currently working on?

I am part of a research project where the goal is to find efficient solutions for sound insulation in buildings made out of cross laminated timber (CLT). This construction material is relatively new and lacks pre accepted solutions and possibilities for software calculation. The project is funded by Splitkon (producer of CLT elements), Brekke & Strand Akustikk along with other collaborators and sponsors. Research involves sound testing in the field on a full scale model. We compare and evaluate various solutions and products for floors, ceilings and junctions. We experience great interest from the industry which indicates that this research is needed.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

I would encourage all women who take an interest in sound, science and the well-being of humans to work in my field. The work allows for a nice combination of being hands on in the field and working among colleagues in an office. Men and women are equally suited for this job since there is no practical difference between the genders in our daily work. I’ve got the fortunate opportunity to shape my own workdays and hours. While I do a lot of independent work, I can always count on support from co-workers when needed. The majority of my co-workers are men, and I would love to have a higher number of female co-workers.

Arianna Astolfi

PhD, Associate Professor, Politecnico di Torino, Italy 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

I started to do research in architectural acoustics during my PhD in Building Physics discussed at the University of Genova in 2000. My research topic was the overall environmental comfort, among which the acoustic comfort.

What research/project are you most proud of?

Especially, my research on classroom acoustics. I have been working on it since 2000 because my children went to school in a nineteenth century building, in classrooms with a bad acoustic condition, and I received many complaints from the teachers and the children told me that there was always a lot of confusion in the classroom. Together with a research group, we've published a research paper about acoustics and learning performance. 

What research/project are you currently working on?

I am working on a project that aims to provide ecological virtual acoustic fields in the laboratory, which reproduce the sounds perceived in real life, to allow ENT doctors to better diagnose hearing impairment and better adapt the cochlear implants.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

I would say to young female researchers and young professionals that working in the acoustic field is particularly satisfying because you immediately perceive the change following an acoustic intervention and, even if you do not monetize the intervention in a saving in the bill, you get benefits on the well-being of the people, their productivity and even more about their health.

Helen Sheldon

Associate, RBA Acoustics, The United Kingdom 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

I always had a love of music and an interest in science, so the science of sound was an obvious choice to me. My dad worked in acoustics (in combustion and railway acoustics), so I had the advantage of knowing that the industry existed, which isn’t the case for everyone. My love of music meant I was keen on the idea of working in building acoustics – the design of buildings relating to noise and vibration. I was quite single minded in my approach to become an acoustic engineer!

What research/project are you most proud of?

I have worked on so many amazing buildings over the years, it’s hard to narrow it down. One highlight was working on the Athlete’s Village for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Working on a cultural centre in Kuwait was a totally different experience and meant I was able to work on a whole range of acoustic issues in one huge project. Another favourite has been working on performance and conferencing buildings for higher and further education establishments, which involve a lot of user engagement in determining the appropriate acoustic criteria.  

What research/project are you currently working on?

I always have a large range of projects that I am working on at any one time. I’m working on several projects where the installation of Air Source Heat Pumps is making the acoustic design complex, due to the noise levels of the units, and the close proximity to residential premises. I’m also involved with noise assessments from leisure premises, the design of several large residential developments, and the acoustic design of a number of office fit out projects.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

I think one of the best things about working in the world of sound is the variety. In acoustic consultancy, I can be working on entirely different things daily– I could be carrying out acoustic testing in a block of flats one day, and designing an auditorium the next. There are so many other areas of sound and acoustics that can also be explored. It’s a fantastic career for anyone, and if more women were working within the sector, it would become even more balanced and welcoming to a wide range of people.

Karolina Jaruszewska

Project Manager, KFB Acoustics, Poland 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

It started a little by accident. During my studies on electronics I had to choose specialisation. Acoustics combined many of my interests: physics, architecture, nature, and art. I used to dream of designing concert halls. But my adventure began with the industrial world. These experiences broadened my understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of this profession and let me find its singularity.

What research/project are you most proud of?

I really like projects accomplished with my friends which focus on the pleasant part of the sound. Results are avaliable here.

The big journey for me was also the publication of an illustrative book “Halo! Tu dźwięk!”. In my professional career, it is an international, acoustics training platform. The ACOUCOU gives an insight into the world of acoustics by using web-based technologies, digital resources and provides a set of free educational materials in various technical fields of acoustics (architectural acoustics, industrial acoustics and fundamentals). 

What research/project are you currently working on?

Currently, I am involved in the work of the EAA Technical Committee on Education. Our mission is to promote a better understanding of acoustics and to support the development of innovative teaching methods, web-based tools, and practices at national and international levels. I am coordinating also an international partnership. We are developing educational materials and practical cases within an innovative online experience. The new and free, web-based courses will be available on the ACOUCOU platform in 2023.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

The beauty of this profession is the connections between science, engineering, and art and that’s exactly what women usually understand and develop to a higher level. Sound is everywhere so its multidimensional nature offers plenty of possibilities. For me, acoustics is an area where you can pursue creativity and fulfill curiosity about the world.

Gry Bælum Thrane

Senior Acoustic Consultant, Efterklang, Denmark 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

At Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the acoustic department have lectures about acoustic for the civil-engineering students. When I heard the lectures I thought of acoustics as more of an art, compared to other subjects at university. This really caught my interest.

What research/project are you most proud of?

Due to the fact that acoustics not working is more noticeable, than well performed acoustics, I tend to be more relieved, than proud, when the acoustics of a building, I worked with, does not show severe mistakes. One place that I amongst other acousticians, can be proud of, is a large open office building around an atrium, that ended up being copied by Novo Nordisk, partly because of its great acoustics layout and performance.

What research/project are you currently working on?

Now I am working with some great colleagues and acousticians at Efterklang, with the renovation of Aviichi Arena in Stockholm. I have the exiting job of working with the room acoustic modelling. Our aim for the arena, is to achieve good fan support for sports events, and of cause also good acoustics for large concert events.

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

I believe that women and men works pretty much the same, but I am personally staying in the business, because of the friendly and welcoming atmosphere amongst acousticians. From university times until today, more and less experienced colleagues have always been interested in idea and knowledge sharing. Further I like, that I can talk with everyone about acoustics, because we all have interesting experiences with sound in our lives.

Ursula Jernberg 

Freelance Photographer, Ursula Jernberg Photography, The Netherlands 

How did you get introduced working in the world of sound?

In 2009 I traveled with my camera to Norway. During a hiking tour with a Norwegian friend, I became acutely aware of outside space and nature. After a long walk, we arrived at a place alongside a country lake. It was at this place that I experienced true silence for the first time. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by silence.

What research/project are you most proud of?

I am the most proud of the project Seeing Silence. Where can we still find silence? To answer this question, I contacted the world-renowned acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton. I told Hempton about my experience in Norway and asked him where I could find the quietest place in the world. He told me of a place.. In 2019 I visited this place on Maui, Hawaii. I regard it as my personal calling to photograph quiet and undisturbed areas of the world before it disappears forever. I would like to make my audience more conscious of the environment. And I would like to share my experiences with you, bringing a feeling of calmness to my audience. People buy my work to create some quiet in their home or office. That’s an honor!

What research/project are you currently working on?

Last year I left Amsterdam and moved to a quiet area in The Netherlands called 'de Veluwe’. I am currently doing research on the most quiet place here. 

How would you convince women to work in the world of sound?

There will be no quiet and undisturbed places left within less than 10 years if we don’t take action to preserve our environment. For me, there is nothing more important. We have to stand up for our next generation. Would be amazing to see more women realizing this and creating awareness on this important and urgent topic!