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For Women Making Music, Objectification and Social Media Abuses Persist: Study

Midia and TuneCore examine the barriers facing women in the music business, including sexual harassment, age discrimination and the "confidence gap."

Media technology analysis company Midia released the findings of its second annual Be the Change: Women in Music 2022 study on Wednesday, May 4. Created in conjunction with Tunecore and its parent company Believe, the study dissects what barriers still exist for women and nonbinary people working in the music industry with a survey of over 1,000 people.

Awareness of this issue has grown over recent years as organizations like She Is The Music and studies like this one and USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative have brought issues of underrepresentation and mistreatment for women and non-male gender identities to the spotlight, but the 2022 study from Midia proves there has been little improvement over the last year in a few key areas.


One area identified as stagnant? Sexualization, objectification and sexual harassment in work environments. The study reveals that “nearly 40% of women creators agreed that women consciously decide to make music at home, rather than in a studio, to avoid potential gender-based harassment,” and that a staggering 61% of women have experienced sexual harassment. Respondents also reported that appearance and age are still major obstacles for women creators. Half of women surveyed have witnessed age discrimination and two-thirds felt the pressure to ‘look good’ frequently.

According to the study, the greatest growing challenge this past year was criticism and abuse on social media platforms, which 29% of respondents said worsened for them.

Positively, the study found gains in areas like visibility and diversity of women in the music industry, with 40% finding improvements in visibility and 36% in diversity. 27% found improvements in the inclusion of women in technical areas, like production, engineering and other male-dominated creative spaces. One creator from the U.K. who was interviewed for the study said, “Women are respected much more in some cases, even more than men when they take on technical roles and excel in them,” implying that there is acceptance for women looking to join these male dominated areas, but unfortunately, with little role models to look up to, gaining access to these spaces still feels formidable.

The study also zeroed in on the “confidence gap” between men and women working in the music, identifying that nearly two-thirds of female executives feel imposter syndrome when collaborating with men and 74% doubt their abilities and feel inadequate. This is linked to feeling especially judged when presenting ideas to their male colleagues. A telling quote, one woman reveals, “If I were a guy, I would feel a lot more confident and free making [creative] decisions.”

Though the results are slightly lower on the female creator side for these issues, still, over half of women music makers also feel imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. These feelings are most prominent in women who are between the third and 20th years of their careers, with younger or older women reporting higher levels of self-assuredness.

It is important to note that these issues and attitudes towards gender in the workplace, while widespread, are not uniform across all genres, roles, ages, gender and sexual identities, and countries. Latin American and Rest of World (RoW) respondents were a bit less likely to be concerned about bias, ageism and pigeonholing; Europeans were most fearful of age discrimination and reported the highest levels of self doubt; Canadian and American respondents had the highest concern about limited creative opportunities and were most likely to experience harassment.

In its analysis, Midia concludes that women creators and executives “face different sides of the same industry” and may be able to extend a helping hand to each other. The research firm suggests “record labels and publishers can make a difference by extending the same HR-like resources to their artists as to their employees.”