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Women in the music industry remain massively underrepresented at Grammys and on Billboard charts

Study showed women in the industry often feel their skills are being discounted, or that they are sexualised and steretyped because of their gender

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Wednesday 06 February 2019 11:04 GMT
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Janelle Monae gives passionate speech in support of Time's Up at the Grammys 2018

The latest study on gender and representation in the music industry has offered depression, albeit predictable, findings.

USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which examines music on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from 2012 to 2018, found that during those seven years and out of 700 song samples, female artists, producers and songwriters were difficult to find.

The number of women on the charts remained stagnant at 17 per cent. Female songwriters made up just 12.3 per cent of their field in a test group of 100 songs, while just 2.1 per cent of the tracks had female producers, as per the previous year.

When it comes to recognition at awards ceremonies, too, things appear bleak. Out of the 1,064 people who were nominated for Grammys in the five main categories between 2013 to 2019, 89.6 per cent were male, and 10.4 per cent were female.

Last year, a #GrammysSoMale hashtag emerged in response to Recording Academy president Neil Portnow's comment that women should "step up" in order to achieve recognition. Since then, an even greater emphasis on gender parity has been placed on the ceremony, and five of the eight Album of the Year nominees are women, including Cardi B and Janelle Monae.

Women in the music industry clearly feel affected by this bias, as 43 per cent reported feeling their skills were discounted. 39 per cent said they had experienced stereotyping and sexualisation.

Stacy Smith, lead author of the report and founder of the initiative, told Rolling Stone: "A lot of what we are seeing is just a rinse and repeat of last year. When you look at songwriting credits, you see almost 25 per cent of the 700 most popular songs have 10 male songwriters attached. That means 10 men are setting the agenda for a quarter of the most popular content being distributed lyrically in the music space."

There was some good news, among the bad. Of the small group of female artists who made it onto the charts last year, a record 73 per cent of them came from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

"This makes music a real divation from television, film and story-telling in streaming services [where women of colour are notably under-represented," said Smith. "Music is the most inclusive place for women of colour."

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