In America, music has long been a force for social and political progress, from Joe Hill’s union folk songs to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On to massive benefit concerts like Live Aid. Prominent left-leaning stars as diverse as Bruce Springsteen and Katy Perry have used their platform to advocate for various causes and political candidates. Despite the progressive views of most music industry voices, the business suffers from the same lack of gender representation as nearly all fields in the United States.
In January, USC’s own Professor Stacy L. Smith published a startling study on gender and racial diversity in the music industry. The study found that in 2017, females made up just 11.4% of professional songwriters, and only 2% (!) of music producers. Considering that women make up over half the population of this country, the disparity is staggering. While the study does not cover corporate music executives, Billboard.com reports that this dismal pattern is apparent in several top labels and streaming companies.
At Spotify and Amazon, women make up only 1/3 of the board of directors, while the boards of Apple, Live Nation, Sony and SiriusXM feature only two women apiece. Severe gender inequality at the highest level of the music business may partially explain the lack of representation on the creative side. While gender inequality pervades every industry, it is unfortunate to see it in an art form so theoretically universal and inclusive.
Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 826, which will require public companies located within the state to fill a quota of female board members according to these terms:
(1) If its number of directors is six or more, the corporation shall have a minimum of three female directors.
(2) If its number of directors is five, the corporation shall have a minimum of two female directors.
(3) If its number of directors is four or fewer, the corporation shall have a minimum of one female director.
If companies do not fill this requirement by the end of 2021, they will face fines starting at $100,000. While several conservative commenters have predictably criticized the measure as governmental overreach, it may be the best solution to this issue, given the abysmal statistics of women in business. Since countless entertainment companies are based in California, this bill may have notable positive results in the music industry.