It might have been thought after years of female under representation in the music industry that finally awards ceremonies were getting it. Yet 2023 saw the trends of previous years (as illustrated below) continue in much the same way as before. 14.2% of artists nominated were women, compared to 85.5% of men, a percentage that is at it's lowest since 2019
As before some of the large awards went to women, such as in 2022 when the likes of Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, Beyoncé Knowles and Taylor Swift were all recipients. It was portrayed as a breakthrough yet the overall number of awards and nominations continue to historically show the extent of gender bias.
The same trends are also visible in the UK. With the Brit awards no longer being divided into male and female categories, it is noticeable that the artist of the year nominees for this years 2023 Brit Awards were all male; Stormzy, Harry Styles, George Ezra, Fred and Central Cee. The album of the year category was similarly dominated by men, with Wet Leg the only female act in contention.
Whilst the awards might represent the pinnacle of achievement, as you work down through pop music's hierarchy, female representation gets even worse. As research by the BBC in 2019 pointed out, the number of female acts credited on the best-selling hundred songs of the year was the same in 2018 as it was ten years earlier, yet the number of men credited over the same time period had risen by 50% mainly due to men collaborating with other male, rather than female, artists.
“Ninety-one men or all-male groups were credited on the Official Chart Company's top 100 most popular songs of 2018 - compared with 30 female acts."
Equally, as has been reported over several years and many times, when it comes to festivals women are frequently under represented in the line-ups. Another survey for the BBC conducted by You Gov in 2022 found that although festivals had protested they were looking to have more female headline acts, little had actually changed. The survey found:
Only 13% of performers were found to be a female solo act or all-female band.
While there was a small proportion of mixed-gender acts and one non-binary performer, all-male bands and solo artists occupied three quarters of the top billings.
Half of all the festivals in the study had no female headliners on the bill.
This is not just a trend in popular mainstream music but also in specialist genres such as jazz. Dr Sarah Raine comments in her report on the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, the second largest in the world, that despite their pledge to programme a 50/50 gender balanced schedule by 2022...
"...it is very clear that women are still significantly under-represented in terms of actual 50/50 performances and (by extension) the total musicians scheduled to perform at this annual jazz festival."
Of the ten women in jazz that Raines interviewed to underpin her report, nine had experienced gender discrimination as musicians whilst three had experienced direct sexual harassment.
So well done the women that did make it to the awards. It shows what can be achieved, despite the odds not being stacked in your favour. But such success should not hide up that not only do fewer women make it to the top but on the non-performing side of the business, women do even less well. To change that may be a lot harder than making an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony, but if achieved, far more beneficial.