Half of women in music have experienced discrimination

Half of female musicians have experienced discrimination according to a new report which paints a disturbing picture of gender inequality in the music industry.

The Women Musicians Insight Report was based on responses from 2,526 musicians who identified as women in the Musicians Census, which was carried out by the Musicians’ Union and the charity Help Musicians in association with Women In CTRL.

It found that women experience much higher levels of discrimination, sexual harassment, financial issues and structural barriers to career progression and also sheds light on the gender pay gap in the music industry. It also concludes that women often have shorter careers than their male peers, despite being more trained and educated on average.

A third of the women were found to have experienced sexual harassment while working as musicians, while a further quarter had witnessed it happening to others. This was shown to have a detrimental effect on their careers, with women making up 62 per cent of respondents who said work-related abuse or harassment hindered their career progression, as well as 60 per cent of those who said discrimination was an obstacle. for those.

Furthermore, the average annual income for a female musician was found to be £19,850, almost 10 per cent less than that for a man, which was £21,750. Women also make up just under a fifth of musicians who said they earned over £70,000 a year from music.

As such, women also report facing more financial problems, with 27 percent of female musicians saying they don’t earn enough to support themselves and their families compared to 20 percent of male musicians.

The visibility of women in music was also found to decrease with age. Overall, 47 per cent of musicians aged 16-55 were women, but this fell to just 26 per cent of over-55s. More women (30 percent) also reported experiencing age discrimination than men (21 percent).

Stock photo of woman
Woman on man’s shoulders dancing in nightclub with DJ behind playing records. Credit: Nisian Hughes/Getty

The report also highlights how inequality in caring responsibilities affects female musicians, which also has an impact on their career progression and longevity.

Female musicians were found to have a higher rate of primary caregiving responsibilities (28 percent compared to 20 percent of other genders), and 22 percent said they were the primary caregiver for a child. Meanwhile, 29 percent of women stated that family commitments and caregiving are an obstacle to their careers (compared to 11 percent of musicians of other genders), with 15 percent citing difficulties in finding childcare and 29 percent unsociable working hours as an obstacle. for career advancement.

“The findings of the latest Census report show that there is still much work to be done to ensure that working as a musician is equal for all,” said Sarah Woods, Chief Executive of Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter. “We hope these insights will encourage the industry to continue working together to reduce gender-based barriers and ensure gender equality in every part of music.”

“It’s alarming to witness the continuing gender inequalities highlighted by the UK Musicians Register, where discrimination, harassment and unequal pay remain widespread issues facing women musicians, calling for urgent action,” added Nadia Khan, founder of Women In CTRL. This pivotal moment presents a unique opportunity for change before the musicians’ next recording. It is vital that the industry makes real commitments and takes decisive action to prevent the same data from happening again.”

The report follows similar findings made about the level of gender inequality in the music industry. In January, the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) that women pursuing careers in music face “endemic” misogyny and discrimination and called for “urgent action” to tackle the issue in a sector “dominated by self-employment and gender power inequalities “.

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