Music streaming services are disruptive, data-driven and progressive compared with the big record companies, so why don’t they have more women in leadership?
On Sept. 19, Hong Perez, a former sales executive for Spotify, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the streaming giant and her then-boss, U.S. head of sales Brian Berner. Spotify said in a statement that it doesn't "tolerate discrimination of any kind, at any level," calling the claims "without merit." But the complaint outlined several instances of alleged bias and discrimination -- from a male counterpart getting a larger salary increase and equity award despite "performance issues," to another male employee receiving a promotion despite sexual harassment claims and multiple warnings from the company, to Berner blaming Perez for his own professional wrongdoings while under investigation by Spotify’s internal audit team. Berner then fired Perez for allegedly violating the corporate code of conduct shortly after his own investigation, despite having previously given other male colleagues a free pass, according to the complaint.
"The music business has had a reputation of gender bias and discrimination for a while, but those issues have recently plagued the Silicon Valley tech-focused machinery as well, in terms of the problems that women face," Perez’s lawyer Seth Rafkin, founder of Rafkin Esq., tells Billboard. "It’s a collision of old and new industries that, from the vantage point of gender equality and women’s experiences, aren’t all that different."
Mostly men have helmed music’s big streaming services since they launched, and though their approach to technology has been innovative, their approach to hiring has not so much. Women account for 49 percent of employees overall at Pandora, but that share drops to 38 percent for leadership roles. Spotify revealed less encouraging numbers in its latest diversity data report in July: 38.7 percent of its employees identify as women, with that share declining to 31.9 percent of those in leadership positions (director level and higher). SoundCloud and YouTube rank lower on gender parity, with women comprising only around 35 percent and 30 percent of total employees, respectively. Apple Music, Tidal and Deezer haven’t disclosed diversity statistics.