Berklee and Women in Music Release Study on Women in the U.S. Music Industry

By 
Tori Donahue
March 12, 2019
Press release
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Results shed light on gender bias, the importance of mentorship, how a career factors into starting a family, and other topics.

Erin Barra, an associate professor at Berklee and board director of Women in Music, formulated the project, which focuses on gender equity in the U.S. music industry.
Image courtesy of Women In Music via Medium

The Berklee Institute for Creative EntrepreneurshipBerklee Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, and Women in Music (WIM) have released the results of the first study in the U.S. exploring the socioeconomic landscape of women in the American music industry.

The study, "Women in the U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities," was created to provide a current snapshot of women working in the industry. Building upon research conducted by Women In Music Canadain 2015, the study analyzed responses from nearly 2,000 women from a survey conducted during the summer of 2018. The survey explored demographics, employment, and the challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace, among other topics.

The survey results present compelling data around the challenges and opportunities women experience in the music industry, while also reaffirming that the respondents are passionate about working in this field. Women responded strongly when asked about gender bias, often sharing examples of workplace behavior and personal stories. Nearly half of respondents felt they should be further ahead in their career, including 41 percent of those at the executive level. 

While both white women and women of color shared this sentiment, 55 percent of women of color felt like they were behind in their careers, compared to 44 percent of white women. Women also overwhelmingly agreed that they had been treated differently within the music industry (78 percent), while over half of respondents felt that their gender had affected their employment (52 percent). These numbers were more pronounced among women who identified themselves as self-employed or freelancers.

Survey results also shed light on positive aspects of different workplace practices, such as mentorship and networking opportunities. For example, 92 percent of women who had been mentored felt like it had contributed to their career in a positive way. Women with mentors were more likely to earn over $40,000 annually, and felt more satisfied in their career growth, compared to women without mentors. Overall, 72 percent of women working in the music industry considered themselves extremely or somewhat satisfied with their primary job.

“We are proud to present the first domestic study of women working in the music industry, taking a look at what is and isn’t working for them,” said Erin Barra, an associate professor at Berklee and WIM board member who led the project. “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.”

Women in the U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities Report

Sixty-one percent of women said their career played a factor in their decision to have or raise children, citing concerns with work/life balance and financial constraints. In a survey section, nearly a quarter of comments noted that they had chosen to have fewer children or none at all due to career-related concerns.

“At Berklee, we have a strong record of preparing talented women for careers across the music industry—from business to music therapy to performance and beyond,” said Nicole d’Avis, director of operations and programming for the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship. “We believe that equity and inclusion are foundational to creating a sustainable and innovative industry, and we will continue supporting future women musicians and leaders based on recommendations from this important study.”

In addition to providing the public with factual, current information and a clearer understanding of the socioeconomic status of women in the industry, the study also aims to identify the current opportunities and challenges faced by women, and contribute in a meaningful way to closing the gender gap. Nearly 2,000 women representing a variety of ages, races, ethnicities, and jobs within the industry responded to the survey from across the country, with 49 states represented along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

“Women in Music has been working to educate, empower, and further the careers of women in the industry since it was founded in 1985," said Women in Music President Nicole Barsalona. "Now, thanks to the results of this significant study conducted with our partners at Berklee, we have critical data to help guide next steps to support women in music. It is our hope that the data will drive action across the industry, help us overcome the stark inequalities, and work to create a more inclusive music business community.”

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