It's (Still) Hard Out Here for Women Producers And Songwriters

Missy Elliott, who could probably out-produce whatever Joe Schmos these labels are bringing in
Missy Elliott, who could probably out-produce whatever Joe Schmos these labels are bringing in
Image: Getty

It might seem as if women currently dominate pop music, given the amount of Ariana Grande, Halsey, or Cardi B blasting from cars these days, but a closer look at who is actually writing and producing most popular music reveals a different story.


A new report on gender diversity and inclusion in recording studios done by Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analyzed 700 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts (from 2012 to 2018) and the findings are grim. During those seven years only 21.7 percent of the artists featured on the songs were women and in 2018 only 17 percent of the artists were women. The report also found that 2 percent of producers on those 700 songs were women, and 12.3 percent of songwriters were women. The overall male to female ratio for producers was 47 to 1.

This is the second time the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has done this report, as the center has largely focused on representation of women in Hollywood. The report also interviewed women writers and producers who cited that they felt stereotyped or sexualized in their industry or had to consistently prove they’re good at their jobs. There was one bright spot in the report: music is reportedly pretty inclusive of women of color, with 73 percent of all women on the year-end Hot 100 chart for 2018 being WoC. That number is up 50 percent from 2017.

The report reflects a long conversation in the industry about how male-dominated music is, especially pop music. Beyond the fact that increasingly trendy messages of female empowerment in pop often come from rooms full of men, there’s also the added reality of sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry. Music has not faced the same MeToo wave that the film industry has and according to this report there seems to have been little to no effort made in diversifying studios. Women have spoken up loudly in the past year or so about how predatory men kept them from making their art or succeeding in music and being confronted with these numbers is to be confronted with all the chances not taken on women producers, writers, engineers, etc.

Hazel Cills is the Pop Culture Reporter at Jezebel. Her writing has been published by outlets including The Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, ELLE, and more.



Ageism comes into play, too. Mariah Carey writes and produces all of her tracks and released one of the best albums of her career last year. Pop radio won't touch it.