Over half of women in music have experienced gender discrimination – and a third have been sexually harassed

The Women Musicians Insight Report makes for uncomfortable reading.

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Over half of all women in music have experienced gender discrimination, while one-third have been sexually harassed, according to the Women Musicians Insight Report.

The report comes from responses to the first-ever UK Musicians’ Census, operated by the Musicians’ Union and the charity Help Musicians.

It’s based on the responses of 2,526 UK musicians who identified as women, and finds that female musicians face higher levels of discrimination, sexual harassment, financial difficulties, and structural barriers when compared to men in music.

Not only that, but women in music are paid less and have less career longevity, even though they’re trained and educated to a higher level on average. Women earn almost a tenth less than men on average, and only 19% of those making £70,000 or more are women. However, more women have a music degree and postgraduate music qualification.

Meanwhile, almost three in ten women (29%) say family and caring commitments are barriers to career progression, with a lack of childcare access and an inability to work unsociable hours. Of other respondents, only 11% say this.

27% of women say they don’t earn enough money to support themselves and their families, while just 20% of men say the same. This has an impact on career longevity, too, with almost half of musicians (47%) aged 16-55 being women, but just 26% over this age being women.

Women report higher levels of age discrimination, too, with 30% of women reporting it in comparison to 21% of men.

Women are also underrepresented in certain roles, too. For example, women comprise just 29% of DJs, 24% of producers, 15% of live sound engineers, and 12% of studio/mastering engineers. In terms of genre, women outnumber men in classical and musical theatre, but nothing else. In UK rap, just 8% of women report working in the genre, compared to 16% of musicians of other genders. It’s a similar story in dance, too, where it’s 18% compared to 28%.

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

“It’s alarming to witness the persistence of gender disparities highlighted by the UK Musicians’ Census, where discrimination, harassment, and unequal pay remain prevalent issues faced by women musicians, demanding urgent action,” adds Nadia Khan, founder of Women in CTRL. “This pivotal moment presents a unique opportunity for change ahead of the next musicians’ census. It’s vital that the industry makes genuine commitments and takes decisive actions to prevent the recurrence of the same data.”


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