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As the CEO of Roc Nation, I take my role as a leader in the music industry very seriously and know firsthand how gender inequality has plagued the sector for decades. Many top executives feel like both men and women have established equal treatment within the music industry, but recent studies and surveys of women in music have proven these assumptions wrong.
Addressing Gender Inequality in Music Is Key to the Industry’s Future Success
According to a recent report by The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, of the 4,060 music executives surveyed, women made up 35.3 percent of C-suite executives. Women of color fare even worse in representation. For example, I am one of only two women of color in an uppermost position of leadership out of the top 70 music companies.
Gender inequality appears across all areas in music, affecting artists, producers and executives. According to a study on equality in music, as of June 2021, only 2 percent of all music producers were female. An early 2020 study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that 12.9 percent of songwriters are women, showcasing how women are still vastly underrepresented in creative roles within the music industry.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry comes with challenges, but change is possible. I’ve outlined three proactive ways leaders can address gender inequality in the music industry.
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Create Clear Pathways and Opportunities to Leadership Roles for Women
Within the industry, there are numerous resources open to men who wish to advance in their careers. However, women face limited chances for upward mobility. Because executive positions tend to be filled by men, the same types of executive candidates rise to the top, oftentimes leaving behind women and women of color as potential candidates.
Corporations must make it a point to actively recruit qualified women for roles, including executive-level jobs. Training opportunities should be offered to women already hired within companies to help them advance their careers. Companies should do more than just pay lip service to change, and provide structural support and resources for women in the music industry. This means providing opportunities to women where they are often underrepresented. Equity training can further help as it exposes both men and women to the disparities found within the industry. Specialized training offered to women could assist with providing a unique skillset for consideration when executive positions open up.
Encourage Mentorship to Support Women Already in the Field
All leaders, not just women leaders, should mentor and support women already in the field. Set up music networking events to give women the right contacts for industry success. Nonprofit organizations like Women in Music help support women in music through education, support and recognition. Mentors can help guide an employee throughout her career in the industry, helping her navigate new projects, new roles and negotiations as they arise. Mentors assist with branding and training to help women get ahead and circumvent barriers. A mentor typically focuses on improving soft skills, like better development of leadership tactics. Making mentorship a job for all leadership to participate in helps better distribute resources to those most in need.
Start Open Conversations That Address Issues of Sexual Harassment and Ageism
A recent survey published on Forbes found that objectification and sexual harassment are some of the main roadblocks women face in the music industry. The survey interviewed 401 female creatives, and 64 percent named gender-based harassment an issue while 38 percent saw ageism as problematic. Music companies must create effective policies and enforce them to promote a positive and safe space for women. Make reporting issues easy with the promise of confidentiality and accountability. Keep staff in the know as you make changes and ask for feedback every step of the way to determine what’s working and what isn’t working.
Having more women in music, especially within leadership and decision-making positions, will help bring about a much-needed cultural shift within the industry. I’m hopeful it’s a culture that promises a safer and healthier work environment for all.