It comers as no surprise that, despite plenty of awareness of the clear divide between the representation of men and women in the Australian music industry, a new report (via Music Feeds) has found that women remain “chronically disadvantaged” on everything from festival lineups to industry boards.

Conducted by the University of Sydney’s Women, Work and Leadership Research Group, the new research highlights two major factors in the inequality in Australian music – one being the potential (or lack thereof) for female artists to get their break, and the other of women being held back from positions behind the scenes.

“Whether it be radio playlists, festival lineups, industry awards, major industry boards, male artists and voices overwhelmingly dominate the Australian music industry,” lead author Associate Professor Rae Cooper says.

“When we look at the gender breakdown for more technical roles such as sound engineering and music production, the gap becomes even wider,” Professor Cooper adds. “Women in the music industry are not only confronted with the ‘glass ceiling’, but also ‘glass walls’, where women congregate in occupations and sectors where the majority of employees are women.”

“Inclusive, representative music industries are the foundation of a rich and diverse music landscape,” says co-author Dr Amanda Coles of Deakin University. “The Australian music industry must catch up to the changes happening across the creative industries more generally.”

The report, titled ‘Skipping a Beat’, can be read in full here, but boils down to five key recommendations to improve female representation everywhere from the boards of music publishing organisations, to public-facing entities like the ARIA Hall of Fame and triple j Hottest 100.

  • Collect more and better data on the music industry on a gender disaggregated basis
  • Establish a well-resourced independent gender equality industry advocacy body
  • Use gender equality criteria in deciding public funding outcomes
  • Increase women’s representation in decision-making structures
  • Address gender bias in the Australian music industry by prioritising inclusivity and representation as core industry values (for example through funding and implementing training programs)

Professor Cooper argues that improving the situation is, ultimately, a smart business move for the industry as much as it is an important social outcome.

“It makes good business sense for the Australian music industry to increase gender diversity in key decision making roles,” Professor Cooper says. “We know from international research that organisations and industries with gender diversity at the senior leadership level perform better not only in terms of connecting with their customers but with business innovation.”

Funded by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and produced with the assistance of PhD candidate Sally Hanna-Osborne, the report provides yet another valuable insight into the state of our industry, but it’s not until the recommendations from reports like these are put into place that we’ll start to see a real shift.