Melinda Colaizzi knows firsthand the challenges women face in the music industry. She is a musician herself and noticed a theme at local events. “In my line of work as a musician and an event planning consultant, I have attended many different fundraisers and benefits. I realized that there was not a great representation of the female talent in Pittsburgh,” she shared.
And it’s not just a problem in Pittsburgh. A 2015 study by Fusion found that just 26 percent of the Top 40 artists were women-only performances. Melinda commented, “Unfortunately, it’s part of the music business. Females can be left on the backburner. It’s so important to showcase women musicians and women-fronted bands.”
In the medical and research community, there is a similar gender disparity. Funding for women’s health research falls significantly behind other areas of research. Until recently, studies done on men were applied to women despite known genetic differences between the sexes. In 1993, the NIH enacted the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act requiring women and minorities to be represented in clinical trials. In that same year, Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) was born, and today is the largest independent research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health research. MWRI is committed to bringing women’s health research to the forefront of medical funding and discoveries.
Melinda first heard about Magee-Womens Research Institute at a 2016 fundraiser at the Pittsburgh Winery where Melinda performed. “I was born at Magee, so I was familiar with the hospital side of things. I was thinking of doing a female showcase and it all kind of fell into place when I heard about the research institute’s mission,” Melinda said.
Fast-forward to May 11, 2017: The pink carpet was rolled out at the Hard Rock Café Pittsburgh for a night of music and raising money for women’s health research. The three main acts were all led by female musicians. The Hobbs Sisters, Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution, and Jill West & Blues Attack entertained the crowd, while radio legend Michele Michaels emceed.
A highlight of the evening was the stories shared about why women’s health is so important. Elisa McMahon, a Women Who Rock committee member, shared her story during the event. “My husband and I didn’t have trouble getting pregnant, but were not able to sustain two pregnancies. I saw Dr. Joe Sanfilippo at Magee who fixed a kink in my fallopian tube. Literally a month after surgery, I was back in his office listening to the heartbeat of my son,” she shared. At the event, Elisa presented the inaugural Women Who Rock award to Dr. Carola Neumann, a primary investigator from Magee-Womens Research Institute. They also shared a special connection. “My mom and sister are cancer survivors, and currently my aunt is fighting triple negative breast cancer which is Carola’s research specialty. Carola was so helpful answering my questions and is truly the most inspirational person,” Elisa shared.
Women Who Rock was sponsored by Totally Fit Mama, Dunkin Donuts, iHeartRadio, and ShowClix. Melinda is looking forward to continuing the event because of the positive response she received. “At one point in the evening, I stood back and looked around the room. The energy was infectious. The biggest take away was being able to make a difference in women’s lives and not just in Pittsburgh. Supporting research helps women all over the world. It also was a great way to support local female musicians. All while having a super fun time.”
- The 2018 event is scheduled to take place in May. Check mageewomens.org/events for more updates on this event and others.