7 Takeaways From A New Berklee Report On Women Working In The Music Industry

We already know gender bias has long operated as status quo across an array of industries — from politics to finance to entertainment. Now, a new report lays out how inequity plays out for women working in all facets of the music business.

The first-of-its-kind U.S. study is shedding light on issues faced not just by performers, but also songwriters, producers, educators, publicists, journalists, artist managers, venue operators and administrators. Facilitated by Berklee College of Music and the organization Women In Music, the study "Women in the U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities" released on Tuesday adds to research conducted by Women In Music Canada in 2015.

At a glance, this new report offers some some high notes (72 percent of respondents consider themselves satisfied with their job) while acknowledging the very present barriers women face in the historically male-dominated and cut throat industry (half of the respondents felt they should be further along in their career).

“We aim to tell the whole story, the good and the bad, and present research encouraging individuals and employers to make informed and inclusive decisions about their careers, creating a more equitable industry culture, and allowing for this important dialogue to continue," said project leader and Berklee associate professor Erin Barra in a statement.

The study surveyed almost 2,000 women working in the American music industry in 2018. Of the respondents, 77 percent identified as white, 10 percent as Hispanic or Latinx, 6 percent as black, 4 percent Asian. It was distributed online in the summer of 2018; the women who qualified to take part had to be 18 years or older, and currently working in or retired from the U.S. music industry. (About 28 percent of respondents were either Berklee or Boston Conservatory alumni.) The survey includes responses from across the country, though clusters emerged in California, New York, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

Here are a few takeaways from the new report:

1. Behind The Beat: Nearly half of the respondents believe they should be farther ahead in their careers than they are, including 41 percent who work at the executive level. More women of color (55 percent) than white women (44 percent) expressed that they felt they were behind. Women of color were more likely to report being in entry-level positions than white women. Additionally, more than half reported having to work more than one job. In Canada — where the music industry receives government support — the rate of women working more than one job was half that in the U.S.

2. Gender Bias Blues: About 78 percent of the women reported they have been treated differently because of their gender. The number jumps for self-employed or freelance workers — 84 percent reported feeling that they experienced different treatment.

3. Mentors Matter: Of practices that could boost a career, the respondents singled out mentorship and networking as the most beneficial. 92 percent of respondents said having the chance to work with a mentor furthered their careers. Women with mentors were more likely to earn more than $40,000. Internships ranked low on the list of practices that positively affected careers. However, 54 percent of respondents reported to have held a music-related internship (paid or unpaid) and 79 percent of those respondents felt it helped their careers. (The report did not state whether the mentor and and internships were structured or not.)

5. Supervisors And Compensation: While female employees reporting to women said they were slightly more satisfied with their jobs, 48 percent of the women who report to men say they earned $60,000 or more annually, compared to 37 percent of women reporting to women who earn that amount. About half said they work for a man, 23 percent work for a woman, and 24 percent work for both.

6. Work-Life Balance: 61 percent of women said their careers in music influenced their decisions about whether or not to have or raise children. Work/life balance and financial factors were cited. This sentiment falls in line with women in other fields, according other recent studies.

7. High Notes: Interestingly, 72 percent said they were "extremely or somewhat satisfied" with their primary job. (However, white women were more likely to be satisfied than women of color — 75 percent compared to 62 percent.) 77 percent said they felt comfortable in their workplace climates and 64 percent said they do feel supported. Women between ages 18 and 24 felt the least comfortable and woman over 50 felt the most.


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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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