Pop music's woman problem

audio-15936_1280We’ve talked before about the diminished role of women performers in early rock and pop—a problem which finally began to improve, beginning in the 1970s.

Given where we started, I’ve argued, it’s no small accomplishment to have so many talented women among the ranks of today’s pop stars, including Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Hayley Williams (of Paramore), Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Adele, to name a few.

I’ve even made the point that pop music has been doing better than mainstream business in making stars out of women. It’s still an embarrassment that in 2016 only 4.2% of S&P 500 companies have women executives and 19.2% have women on boards!

But I confess I wasn’t looking hard at the record chart data. After doing a little digging I could see that in the last two decades women singers (or bands featuring women vocalists) rarely accounted for more than a quarter of the hits. (In 2015 Taylor Swift and Adele were the only women with #1 hits!)

Articles such as “Why Are There So Few Women on the Top 40 Chart?” in Fusion and “Same As It Ever Was: Women on the Hot 100” in Slate tell the same story: women performers, despite some progress (and a brief spike in 2014), have been consistently crowded off the charts by men.