Music

Half of Women in Music Industry Say Gender Discrimination Persists, New Report Finds

In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8), Believe and Tunecore have released their fourth annual collaborative report Be The Change: Gender Equity In Music.

Prepared by MIDiA Research and featuring a forward by Melissa Etheridge, the report aggregates responses from 4,146 creators and professionals in the music industry. This research was done through an online global survey translated into 14 languages and executed in November and December of 2023.

Of these respondents, 64% were men, 32% were women and 6% were gender expansive, with this segment indicating that they identify as nonbinary, agender, transgender or other. One-on-one interviews were also conducted with women and gender expansive creators in the U.S., South Africa, France, Mexico, and India.

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Among the key findings, the survey found that — despite some recently documented gains for women in music creation and representation — women and gender expansive people are far more likely than men to experience the music industry as “generally discriminative” based on gender, with 49% of women and 41% of gender expansive individuals expressing this belief, compared to only 16% of men.

Age plays a factor in regard to this finding, with Gen Z less likely to perceive gender discrimination than older generations. 31% of 16-24-yea- old women view the industry as generally discriminative based on gender, compared to 54% of 25-34 year olds and 42% of women 55 and older. The report notes that this finding “could reflect improving conditions” but could also be a function of younger women not yet being in the industry long enough to experience discrimination.

The study also found that three in five women in music have experienced sexual harassment, and that one in five have experienced sexual assault.

More than 70% of women who have these experiences do not report them, the study says, “due to fear of retaliation and not believing anything would change being the most common reasons.” The study also notes that 53% of men who witnessed sexual harassment and/or assault did not report it, with 37% of these men saying that they “did not feel it was their place.”

Additionally, 56% of women who reported sexual assault responded that their claims were ignored or dismissed. The study found that nearly one-third were told to “keep quiet about it” while 12% were terminated from their job after reporting an incident.

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As such, the study states, “the burden is on women to adapt their behavior to avoid misconduct, rather than on perpetrators and the wider industry to stop it happening in the first place.”

In terms of money, the study found that women and gender expansive people “are twice as likely as men to discover they are paid less than colleagues in the same or similar roles.” Identity compounds this issue, with 49% of women of a marginalized race or ethnicity having learned they’re paid less than colleagues. The study advises that the pay gap “is likely even more widespread than these statistics indicate, as individuals may be subjected to unequal pay without knowledge of it.”

There were more positive outcomes from the study as well. The report states that over the last two years, one-third of the people surveyed saw a decline in harassment. Nearly half say their confidence and self-motivation improved over that same timespan, and around a third said opportunities for career progression and promotion have improved. 28% said that diversity of staff has increased and 31% say recognition has increased.

Regarding the key factors in driving positive change, the women and gender expansive individuals surveyed reported that more diversity in positions of power, pay transparency and stronger enforcement are the most crucial factors in shifting the landscape. The study continues that “women and gender expansive individuals lack trust in industry executives to implement change, so many are being the change themselves.”

The report also explores topics like attitudes towards emerging technologies, finding the respondents feel “a mix of curiosity and unease” about the advancement of tech like AI. It also speaks to the challenges of algorithmic demands, saying that “social platforms are increasingly important for music distribution and marketing, which means catering to what algorithms prefer. This ironically limits diversity in presentation, even as it promotes diversity in substance. The pressure to package artists’ identities into palatable, bite-sized social clips can also be damaging. Spotlighting an artist’s age, sexuality, or gender identity in headlines, posts, and marketing strategies may drive engagement and inspire others, but can reproduce existing biases and stereotypes.”

The study also breaks down respondents by region — Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean and North America — finding, among other things, that 65% of women in North America frequently experienced pressure to look good, “the highest of all the regions.”

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