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After Calls for Parity, Women Are Still Underrepresented in Latin Music

From artists to songwriters, a numbers analysis on the eve of Women's History Month shows small measurable growth.

At first glance, the stats for Latin women on Billboard and MRC Data’s year-end report was encouraging. Two of the top five Latin albums of 2021 were by women — Karol G’s KG0516 and Selena’s Ones. In fact, the Colombian superstar and the late Tejano star were the only artists able to crack the top five of the report, where Bad Bunny placed three titles.

Turn to 2021’s most-streamed Latin songs and things weren’t bad either. There, Kali Uchis scored the second most-streamed song of the year with “Telepatía” while Rosalía came in at No. 5 with “La Noche de Anoche” alongside Bad Bunny. “Telepatía” also ended the year at No. 2 on MRC’s Top Latin Radio Songs tally.

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That’s an improvement over 2020, when no women were among the top five albums of the year. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that although women’s presence on the Latin charts hasn’t diminished, it hasn’t grown either — with their numbers on both the Hot Latin Songs and Top Latin Albums charts stubbornly stuck at less than 20% of the total chart presence over the last five years.

For songwriters and producers, the news is worse. Not a single woman has made Billboard’s Top Latin Producers chart ranking the top 10 producers of the week since it began publication in 2019 — a reflection of the very small number of female producers in the market.

Women have a slightly stronger presence on the Top Latin Songwriters chart, but it’s limited to artists who have penned their own songs. In 2019, the chart’s inaugural year, Karol G was the only female songwriter that made the chart all year, out of 27 names. In 2020, it was Karol G again, together with Nicki Minaj (with whom she co-wrote “Tusa” along with several male writers), out of 44 names. In 2021, three women — Karol G again, Kali Uchis and Julieta Venegas — made the list, out of 49 names.

At a time when collaborations are becoming frequent and there are more writers than ever on tracks overall, there’s also a growing roster of in-demand female songwriters — including Elena Rose (Becky G, CNCO, Rauw Alejandro), Kat Dahlia (Christina Aguilera) and Alejandra Alberti (Danna Paola) — who are being tapped to write for major acts, male and female. But they’re not yet generating the volume of output that’s required to hit the top 10 spots on the Latin Songwriter’s chart, suggesting there’s plenty more work to be done to empower and employ female writers.

On the overall Top Latin Albums and Hot Latin Songs chart, female artists’ presence — while not diminished — has not meaningfully grown since 2016.

On the Top Latin Albums chart, the percentage of women has remained relatively constant, hovering at our near 12% since 2017.

On the Hot Latin Songs chart, arguably the ultimate barometer of success, there were only 15 tracks led by women or featuring women in 2015, out of 219 tracks overall, a measly 6.8%. In 2016, the number rose to 18 tracks out of 214, or 8.4%. In 2017, once labels made a public call to develop more female artists, 32 tracks out 208, or 15%, made it on the chart. The number rose to 47 out of 241 in 2018, or 19.5%, and the biggest percentage so far.

In 2019, 39 out 246 names on the chart — or 15.8% — were female. In 2020, the number dipped to 30 out of 276, or 10.8%. Last year, numbers were up again: 45 out of the 293 names on the chart, or 15.3%, were female.

Why the numbers have not risen is a reflection of the current state of the market, where pods of writers collaborate for major acts who dominate the charts. And while women are increasingly being asked to step in the room, the numbers suggest it’s still not happening enough.