Number of US female musicians reaches decade high, but is still far from parity

The share of female artists involved in last year’s biggest chart hits in the US has increased to 35%, according to a new study.

Inclusion in the Recording Studio? is the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative annual report, assessing women’s involvement in music. In 2023, the number reached the highest it has been for any year going back to 2012.

“For the second year in a row, the percentage of women artists on the popular charts has increased,” Stacy L Smith, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “This is a notable milestone and worthy of celebration. However, it is still important to recognize that there is room to grow. Women filled less than one-quarter of artist roles across all 12 years examined, and these figures are still far from representing the 50 percent of women in the population and the music audience.”

In 2023, 40.6% of chart spots were occupied by individual female artists, an improvement from 34.8% in 2022. Female songwriters increased from 14.1% to 19.5%. There was also an increase for women of colour, with 55 receiving a songwriting credit in 2023 up from 33 the year prior.

Smith credits the rise to “the work of numerous groups working to support women in music”, adding that “advocacy and activism is propelling change in the industry”.

The study comes before this weekend’s Grammys, which feature a female-dominated list of nominations, led by SZA, Victoria Monét and Phoebe Bridgers. Only one man, Jon Batiste, is featured in both the song and record of the year categories. The study also examined the nominations in full, noting a significant increase in the main categories, but pointing out that not a single woman was up for producer of the year.

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“There is still too little recognition for women producers and songwriters in those categories, and there are too few women of color nominated for their work,” Smith added. “For music industry honors to truly reflect the creative workforce and the audience they serve, there must be a place for women and particularly women of color in these awards.”

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