Robyn Scharaga: “Sometimes, you have to see it to be it.”

Robyn

Robyn Scharaga has worked as an international DJ, a Psychotherapist, a School Counsellor, and a Race Equality Researcher. Throughout her career, one thing has remained constant: her deep connection with other women.

“I’ve met so many amazing women whose advice has stayed with me to this day. The women I’ve met on flights, the hospitality staff – there have been so many who have imparted their wisdom onto me, even in the most unlikely places.”

Robyn cut her teeth at major record labels EMI and Universal, later founding her own agency, where she managed events in Europe, America, Australia, and New Zealand.

“At the time, people weren’t necessarily thinking about alternative revenue streams outside of record sales. I decided to approach club nights in the same way as band concerts. For the next 20 years, that was my full-time job: travelling the world DJing, agenting, branding, and merchandising,” Robyn said.

“It was a very male-centric industry, especially at the time. There were so many women working behind the scenes that were never getting the recognition that they deserved. I felt like a lot of men had a sense of entitlement that women were there to manage them, almost like a mother or a girlfriend,” she said.

“I worked hard to change that perception and tried to be as visible as possible in my work. I also worked with female promoters in Romania, New Zealand, and Argentina. I wanted to inspire other women, and sometimes, you have to see it to be it.”

However, being a solo female travelling the world didn’t come without its challenges.

“Half of the time, people didn't even think I was the DJ - it was very different to what I could see my male colleagues experiencing. I observed how different cultures approached females, especially from an intersectional lens. I’m a brown woman from a mixed-race background, I’m half Jewish, and I’m American. I was seen as an anomaly everywhere,” Robyn said.

“But one of the beautiful things about being a female travelling on your own is the other women you meet. I once spent an evening partying with a woman at a nightclub after a DJ set, and it wasn't until we were parting ways outside the club, that we realised we didn’t speak each other’s languages!”

But why did she feel like that connection with other women was always there, no matter where she was in the world?

“I’m not quite sure - is it our shared experiences? Is it the curiosity and the emotional intelligence that a lot of women have towards each other? There is a sense of camaraderie, of protection, knowing how society might position us, and the obstacles that we might face. It does feel very magical,” Robyn said.

After nearly two decades running her agency, Robyn turned her focus to another of her great interests: psychotherapy. She applied to study at USW and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Counselling and Psychotherapy and an MA in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy.

“I found that my life experiences had helped me to have a holistic view of the world. As a DJ visiting a country, I’d often be hosted by women in their homes for the weekend, and would hang out with their families, meet their friends, and cook food with them. So that really helped me learn about the different ways people live and the stereotypes that we can have. We often see people on television, but we don't actually hear their stories or sit in their shoes. We don't feel it, we don't smell it, we don't taste it”, she said.

“My Masters focused on race, gender, ethnonationalism, nationality. sexual orientation - all the things that are parts of us. They aren't the whole parts of us, but they inform our perspective. Meanwhile, I had formally stepped back from my music career, but I continued to DJ as a hobby, as I realised I wanted to continue to have my finger on the pulse of people’s lived experiences.”

In 2023, Robyn started working as a Senior Research Assistant for the Race Equality Charter at USW.

“I manage the University’s Race Equality Charter Bronze submission. It’s so fulfilling because it aligns with a lot of the interests and values that I've always had bubbling underneath the surface my whole career,” she said.

“I think that employers are integral in creating change which can ripple out into the wider world. They can empower people and communities to see themselves in a more positive light, helping to address unequitable power to create a society that benefits everyone and inspires the next generation.”

Robyn commented on the importance of marking International Women’s Day to celebrate female accomplishments.

“In a world that often sidelines women, it’s important to have a day of celebration,” she said.

“But we should also use it to consider all the ways women continue to be underrepresented, especially ethnic minority, global south, or socio-economically deprived women, who still face major obstacles in our society.”

Robyn spoke about the women who have inspired her to be where she is today.

“I have a host of strong women that I've looked up to throughout my life, such as my grandmother. She was from Alabama and was one of the first Black women to be a supply teacher in the South. Also, my stepmother and my mother, who are also both Black women - I have so much respect for the journey they went through to pave the way for me,” Robyn said.

“I’m inspired by female musicians such as Grace Jones, Fever Ray, Nina Simone, and Bjork, but also the women I’ve met out and about from all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds. Having spent a lot of time particularly with older women, I’m often struck that they regret more what they didn’t do than what they did do. But the women I admire the most are those who dance to the beat of their own drum.”