Protests erupted throughout America following the tragic murder of George Floyd. A moment captured in time, the scales of justice seemed tilted away from those looking to live fair and free. As the world reeled from Floyd’s passing, industry leaders in every niche and sector promised to do better and to make a change, and the entertainment industry was no different.
A diversity report published by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California would unveil some rather dark truths about the industry and its level of equality for all members.
An Industry Without Representation
The diversity report published by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed a serious lack of representation at higher levels of employment. The study looked at over 4,060 executives from 119 companies, ranging from music groups and labels to streaming services and radio broadcasters. What the report found was stunning; just 19.8% of executives were from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups.
Exploring the numbers in the report would reveal that nearly 86% of executives at 70 major and independent businesses were both male and white. Of the executives surveyed by the Annenberg Initiative, only 10 executives were non-white and just two execs were women of color, including Desiree Perez, the CEO of Roc Nation.
Despite the highly publicized success of female celebrities like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, year-after-year changes would show that women were losing power within their field, not gaining it. Despite female representation taking a stumble, ethnic backgrounds were much more diverse; nearly 59% of artists on the Billboard Hot 100 list were people of color in 2020.
Why does it seem like the music industry is gaining ground in one area and falling behind in another? This is a question asked often of Roc Nation’s Desiree Perez.
A Music Industry In Need of Change
While people of color are still underrepresented in executive positions, there has been a definitive shift in modern pop music toward diversity. Dating back to 2012, nearly 47% of all credited artists on the Billboard Top Songs chart were people of color. Despite progress, change still needs to come. According to the Inclusion Initiative, for every solo female performer with a hit, 3.6 men were earning one of their own.
Stacy L. Smith was one of the leading researchers in the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. She found that women have not found any improvement in the music field and, in fact, have seen demonstrable steps backward. Dr. Smith stated in an email interview, “There must be an emphasis on addressing the reasons that women do not have access and opportunity in the industry.”
The CEO of Roc Nation, Desiree Perez, has been an avid music industry professional for over a decade, becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2019. As the head of Roc Nation’s Team Roc, Perez is in a unique position to use her voice to cut through the noise that is industry underrepresentation. Desiree Perez believes in the importance of empowering women and people of color, and in building opportunities for them to gain a path of entry into executive positions in the industry. Her own journey to an executive-level position serves as an example for others on a similar path to follow.
About Desiree Perez
Desiree Perez and Jay-Z founded Roc Nation together as an entertainment agency with a multi-service approach to the field. Named the Chief Executive Officer in 2019, Perez has helped to lead Roc Nation through necessary areas of social justice. Not shying away from the social battlefield, Perez and Roc Nation have worked hard to support victims of racial injustice, supporting the legal cases of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
Perez was named Executive of the Year by Billboard at the Women in Music Awards in 2019. Billboard wrote, “Desiree Perez has quietly become one of the most formidable figures in the music business.”
Originally published at https://swaay.com.