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Women Making Music Study: Sexual Harassment Is 'By Far The Most Widely Cited Problem'

Taylor Swift
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Billboard

Taylor Swift attends Billboard Women In Music 2019, presented by YouTube Music, on December 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Nearly two-thirds of female music creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a major issue in a new survey by Midia and Tunecore.

Earlier this month, USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released the results of a study that concluded there have been no significant improvements for women in the music industry over the last nine years. Results of that survey showed that "women were 21.6% of all artists on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts across the past nine years and represented only 20.2% of artists on the chart in 2020."

Now, a new study is piggybacking on those results to ask a simple question: Why?

Released Thursday (March 25), Be The Change: Women Making Music In 2021 is a study by media and technology analysis company MIDiA, in conjunction with Tunecore and its parent company, the digital music company Believe. After examining underrepresentation in the music industry by surveying 401 female music creators around the globe, the study offers several key conclusions.

The first is that "gendered expectations have skewed recognition and reward in the music industry," with 81% of women surveyed reporting that they think it's harder for female artists to get recognition than male artists. Additionally, almost two-thirds of female creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a major issue. The study labeled it "by far the most widely-cited problem."

The study notes that this sexualization and objectification "are a consequence (or symptom) of unbalanced power dynamics" as they relate to as ageism (reported by 38% of the women polled), lack of access to male-dominated industry resources (36%) and lower pay (27%). Challenges related to tokenism, the fabrication of competition between female artists and treatment of the problem with lip service only are also cited as key issues facing women in music.

The study concludes that these challenges are "symptomatic of deeper issues of systemic male dominance permeating industry attitudes and behaviors," with over 90% of respondents reporting that they had experienced unconscious bias during their careers. 84% of women polled reported that they believe that women are still expected to take on the primary role of parenting duties and that the music industry prioritizes young female artists, which is "partly a symptom of the industry’s youth obsession, but also so that women become successful before they are presumed to decide to take on the role of motherhood."

In terms of solutions, respondents noted that they most desire changes to come from "within organizations and from leaders across the music industry through diversity, policies and culture," with 42% stating this as one of the best ways to encourage more women into the industry. Thirty eight percent of female music makers want to see these changes come as a result of legislation, while 35% say an effective way to create change is via mentorship programs where women work with other women.

"We have a long way to go still before there is no more need for reports such as these," writes Imogen Heap in an introduction to the study. "There are many incredibly talented people across the industry who come from diverse backgrounds and still remain the minority."

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