For Women in Music, Equality Remains Out of Reach

For Women in Music, Equality Remains Out of Reach

For Women in Music, Equality Remains Out of Reach

For Women in Music, Equality Remains Out of Reach

Just 2 percent of producers of the top 100 songs last year were women, down from 5 percent the year before. Minority women have been almost totally excluded in this category: Of the 1,291 producer credits for the most popular songs in a 600-song subset since 2012, only nine of them were for women of color.

The takeaway of the report is that there has been no meaningful improvement in nearly a decade for women creators at the top of the music industry.

The charts are far more diverse when it comes to the ethnic backgrounds of performing artists. Last year, 59 percent of the artists behind the top 100 songs were people of color — a likely reflection of the dominance of hip-hop and the way that streaming has driven a globalization of the pop charts. This ratio has generally been climbing for both men and women over the course of the Annenberg study, although the upward trend is more pronounced among men.

In another announcement, PRS for Music, a major British copyright society, said that 81.7 percent of its members were men, although the pace at which women have been joining the organization — which handles licensing and royalty payments for songs — has been picking up.

The data collected by Dr. Smith and her colleagues, including Katherine Pieper, Marc Choueiti, Karla Hernandez and Kevin Yao, is publicly available. But their first study, in 2018 — coming in the midst of the #MeToo movement, and after Dr. Smith’s high-profile criticisms of diversity in Hollywood — still shocked the music industry.

Since then, a number of initiatives have been undertaken to address the industry’s underlying problems, among them She Is the Music, a group co-founded by Alicia Keys to promote women through efforts like mentorship and an employment database. In 2019, the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, asked record companies, producers and artists to promise to consider at least two female candidates for production and engineering jobs; at least 650 people and companies have signed on since.

Dr. Smith praised such efforts but said they are not enough.

“The industry has to move from expressing concern over the numbers,” she said, “to taking real and concrete steps to address bias and ensure access for the talented women who are already in this industry to the positions and spaces that remain closed to them. When this happens, the numbers will reflect this change.”


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