Gender Diversity in the Music Industry? The Numbers Are Grim


The music industry does far better with racial and ethnic diversity. Of the study’s 1,239 performing artists, 42 percent were from minority groups, above the United States Census figure of 38.7 percent.

While women’s difficulties breaking into the music business are well documented, the starkness of the study’s findings is surprising. At the Grammy Awards, for example, the success of stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Adele may grab headlines. But a vast majority of awards go to men.

Of the 899 individuals who have been nominated for the last six Grammy ceremonies, 90.7 percent were men and 9.3 percent were women. The study found that women were most likely to appear in the best new artist category. (This year, three of the five best new artist nominees are women: Alessia Cara, Julia Michaels and SZA. The only woman up for album of the year is Lorde.)

By looking at the top 100 songs for any given year, Dr. Smith’s study excludes thousands of artists who are less commercially visible and also those in many niche genres, where women’s influence has sometimes been significant. Dr. Smith defended this methodology by saying that her research focused on “agenda-setting songs and stories” that reach the widest audience.

And in the world of songwriting — music’s storytellers and lyric writers — men dominate.

Nine male songwriters, the study found, have been responsible for almost one-fifth of the top songs in the last six years. At the top of the list are Max Martin, who had 36 hits; Drake, with 25; and Benny Blanco, with 22.

The women with the most songwriting credits are Nicki Minaj, with 15; Rihanna, with 13; and Taylor Swift, with 11.

Dr. Smith said that her team planned to undertake further studies of the music industry, including looking at the women in the executive ranks and the “pipeline” of employment in the business.

“Our goal,” Dr. Smith said, “is to eradicate inequality in entertainment.”

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