There's been a lot of talk in the last year, kicked off by reports from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, about the "boys club" that is the music industry. And now, a new study of nearly 2,000 women in the industry paints a more detailed picture of the specific challenges women in the music industry are facing.
Berklee College of Music and Women in Music collaborated on a comprehensive survey of the nearly 2,000 American women who work in music — from the executive suite to venue managers to songwriters and everything in between — and found that while the majority of women are passionate about their jobs, they all experienced gender bias. The bias has influenced every aspect of their careers, including their compensation, a lack of support based on colour and gender, how they feel about having babies, and where they are in their jobs.
Still, some big takeaways are positive: women are satisfied with their jobs, on a sliding scale of happiness with those earning bigger paychecks feeling happiest; they feel comfortable and supported in their workplaces; and, those who have been mentored felt greater job satisfaction and received higher salaries.
Seventy-eight percent of women in the survey reported being treated differently because they are a woman, and among self-employed freelancers, 68% felt their gender had negatively affected their employment — with women working in production, performance, and music journalism fields experiencing it at the highest levels.
The survey offers a sharp picture of what women want. The survey found that most women simply want more diversity, of both gender and colour, in the music industry. They suggested advocacy and more women in leadership positions, but by and large, what they want is intentional diversity in hiring — find qualified women and give them the job. That sounds like a simple request, but it's proved surprisingly challenging for the industry. That lack of diversity is what has been spurring things like the Grammy's Producer and Engineer Inclusion Initiative and the organization of resources like Soundgirls and She Is the Music, to help those with hiring power find women, as well as offering training and networking opportunities.
“There’s still a bias against female engineers, where I feel we need to prove ourselves more than our male counterparts," one person wrote. "While [my] mentors have been wonderful in their guidance, they still aren’t comfortable taking a risk on me like they do with my male peers. This limits my ability to prove myself and to demonstrate I can handle big opportunities.”
The response reflects the Annenberg's report, which this year asked women in music production about their experiences and came to the conclusion that working towards making sure there is more than one woman in the room in production studios would vastly improve working conditions and the mental health for women. It also reflects what Refinery29 found in an informal conversation with women about what they want to happen in music in 2019 — all the answers women offered circled back to the idea of wanting to have more women around to have their backs.
"Constant sexual harassment. Constant. And it hasn’t changed. People just 'apologize' afterwards now," another woman wrote.
Additionally, women reported that working in a nontraditional industry like music, where late nights and odd hours are commonplace, had influenced their decision to have children, with 22% saying it is why they opted to have fewer or no children.
"I delayed having children until 35 because of my music career while involved [in] touring and being signed to a record deal," one wrote. "I almost wasn’t able to have a second child because of waiting too late. On the plus side, the flexibility of my career being a songwriter and singer has been very compatible with motherhood."
Calls for conscious inclusion, intersectionality, and an increase in the awareness of inequity were among the suggestions women had for improvement, in steps both big (like blind auditions and diversifying positions of influence in the Recording Academy) and small (like blogging more about women musicians and being mindful of how we talk about other women).