In news that will shock no one with ears, women did not make strides to even up representation for their gender in music last year. A new report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that dropped today contains a slew of disheartening statistics. Analyzing the most popular songs from 2012 to 2018, the study found that women are still statistically insignificant in many areas. Women make up only 2.1 % of producers — women of color were only 4 out of 871 producers on those tracks, rendering them nearly invisible —, a mere 12.3% of songwriters, and a pathetic 17.1% of artists on the charts.
The report also analyzes Grammy nominees from 2013 to 2109, of which a paltry 10.4% were women — revealing that over the last seven years, only two women have gotten more than three nominations: Taylor Swift with seven and Beyoncé with four. (Sorry Adele, maybe on the next universally acclaimed album.)
We've been infuriated by these facts for the past year and there is little in the way of new information here. What's attention-grabbing is that this year the study added qualitative interviews with 75 women songwriters and producers. Their comments on today's studio environment and culture sounds nothing short of a Mad Men episode.
43% of responders said that being taken seriously was a barrier; not only were "their abilities, competence, and knowledge in the role of songwriter or producer" often doubted or "undercut by their colleagues," but they also felt they had to prove their competence to future collaborators. Nearly all of the women (92%) said their leadership or vision had been challenged by a colleague. The 2019 study links to several previous ones that show how double or different standards for women in the workplace set them up to fail and other them, making them "good for a girl" instead of just good.
A significant amount of women (39%) also said "women’s careers are inextricably tied to expectations about their gender and sexual availability" in unprompted responses. In short: Women in the studio are experiencing everything from actions that fit the description of sexual harassment to being penalized for gender-nonconforming behavior to mundane objectification. All of these circumstances directly impact a professional's ability to do work and have negative outcomes for anyone's — but in this case women's — health.
If that weren't enough, some 70.7% of respondents said that work/life balance was challenging — something Refinery29 heard about when we spoke to women TV composers about the challenges of their field and Annenberg found in their studies of women in film also. Good luck working in an industry with weird or demanding hours, or one that demands you give yourself the space to be a creative genius, if you're a woman — because you've also been conditioned to be the team captain in your relationship, that you need to be paying attention to your biological clock, and that the majority of the mothering and cleaning and organizing duties in life are yours.
But now the good news. Finally, the music industry is attempting to DO something to even the playing field for women, specifically in production. Spotify launched the EQL Studio Residency Program and their EQL database with SoundGirl to help those on the lookout find women who work in production. The Grammys launched The Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative, with sign-on from hundreds of the top creatives in the industry to pledge to consider at least two women candidates for jobs.
These initiatives and databases suggest the simple act of including more women will help — simply ensuring there isn't only one woman in the room is a first step in closing this gap. From there, Annenberg's study suggests establishing mentorship programs, speaking up on behalf of women's credibility when it is questioned, and committing to hiring and working with more women. For the latter, the group advocates for quotas and, given the absolutely dire numbers of women in music, setting those tangible goals seems like damn good idea to demonstrate commitment.