Where are the women in music?

Parris Walters

By Parris Walters

Parris Walters

5 Mar 2019

This year’s theme for IWD 2019 is #balanceforbetter, a theme which aims to promote gender equality within workplace.

The official site for International Women’s Day makes its views of on this year’s theme clear, stating:

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage …

2019, International Women’s Day

So what happens when we examine this issue through the lens of the music industry. An industry, which I believe to be multi-faceted in its nature as it emcompasses far more than just ‘people who make music’. How do we tackle the lack of representation amongst not only artists and performers but also within the production of the artistry and the channels through which we promote this art?

A recent study by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism entitled ‘Inclusion in the Recording Studio’ revealed that:

‘A full 1,455 artists were credited across the sample of 700 songs. In 2018, 82.9% of artists on the year end charts were male and 17.1% were female.’ … ‘A total of 3,330 songwriters were credited on the seven-year sample. A full 87.7% were males and 12.3% were females.’

Perhaps, before we are able to begin establishing a sense of balance within the industry, we should addess as to why we do not see more woman filling these positions. One thing that I have noticed whilst trying to gain more insight into the inner workings of this industry is that certain spaces are not designed for women to be present and to feel comfortable. Female artists are held to a different standard when it comes to creating and releasing their art and far too often we have seen society try to limit or challenge their progress in the name of adhering to our norms about gender.

Cardi B responds to her critics who suggest that her pregnancy will impact her musical success.

We do not have to look far for examples of spaces within the indusry not being safe for women. Even London’s very own Radar Radio suspended broadcasting last year following allegations of sexual harassment and cultural appropriation amongst a host of other unacceptable workplace practices.

Twitter post by @RadarRadioLDN: We have made the decision to suspend broadcasting until we are in a position to address the recent commentary around aspects of the station.

As a black woman aspiring towards a career in broadcasting, it is disheartning to hear stories such as these and wonder how many other woman have encountered and continue to encounter this behaviour in the workplace.

As women, our views on certain matters are not held in the same regard as those of men and as a consequence, our presence as producers, engineers, DJ’s, record label execs, songwriters etc. are not deemed as important. This is not to take away from the women who currently fill positions such as these or the female artists that we have begun to see in our mainstream media due to their hardwork and deserved success. This is to remind people that there is still a gross imbalance and that I would like to see more woman in these roles and see them being commended for their efforts.

Our ideas, our narratives and our presence in the spaces where music is made is essential and should be treated as such. Many who read this article will be fans of music. We aware of the power that music has on culture, politics, our behaviour and even our own emotions.

Start asking yourselves where are the women in music?