Annenberg hosts panel on female representation in music

Grammy-nominated female artists Cam and TOKiMONSTA shared their experiences in the music industry. (Shaylee Navarro)

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative hosted a diverse panel of Grammy-nominated musicians and accomplished women in the industry, as part of “A Celebration of Women in Music” Tuesday. The panelists discussed the lack of representation of women in the music industry and what steps can be taken to achieve gender parity.

The most recent Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study, conducted earlier this week, demonstrated that 73 percent of female artists are women of color and there was an increase in female Grammy nominees. However, there is still work to be done, said professor Stacy Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

The panel included Tina Tchen, head of the Inclusion Task Force at the Recording Academy; Ann Mincieli, a recording engineer and studio coordinator for Alicia Keys and founder of Jungle City Studios; country music singer-songwriter Cam; record producer and DJ TOKiMONSTA; and singer-songwriter Aluna Francis, who is part of the electronic music duo AlunaGeorge. Smith and her research associate Katherine Pieper co-moderated the event.

Jody Gerson, the global chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, co-founded She is the Music, a nonprofit dedicated to inclusion initiatives for women in the music industry in response to a study published by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative last year. The study found that across 700 of the most popular songs from 2012-2018, less than 22 percent of the artists behind them were women.

The organization has three major initiatives to increase female representation in the music industry.

“We built a global online database, so the industry can connect and create with more women,” Gerson said. “We’ve successfully launched a global, all-female songwriting series, and this year we will unveil a mentorship program to develop future generations of women.”

Grammy-nominated artists Cam and TOKiMONSTA shared their respective struggles in the fields of country and electronic music.

Cam said that within her genre, she still faces backlash when speaking out against gender imbalance issues. TOKiMONSTA said that her peers often underestimate her talents as a female electronic musician.

“In the realm that I am [in], which is electronic and urban music, it is very male-dominated,” TOKiMONSTA said. “It is almost to the point of misogyny, yet in this last year, I’ve seen a significant change.”

While the statistics sparked “hunger” toward achieving gender equality in the industry, Francis said, the changes will take generations to be fully implemented. Tchen said women in all industries have faced discrimination for generations.

“We’re talking about overall culture,” Tchen said. “This isn’t just the music industry. This is everywhere that women for generations have not been able to advance, have been the victims of violence and harassment, have been kept down in so many different ways.”

According to Tchen, one of the ways the Task Force implements change is by electing more women to its committees. Research affirms that more diverse groups make better decisions, Tchen said. She also said that increasing female representation could help protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace.

“We’ll never make progress unless we really confront [sexual harassment],” Tchen said. “Everyone deserves a safe place to … do their work, to make a living.”

Kristin Vartan, a graduate student studying specialized journalism, attended the event and said she learned more about the music industry and how it can foster an inclusive environment.

“I think it was pretty fruitful just because they brought women from almost every aspect of the industry,” Vartan said. “Anyone who wanted to hear from an artist or a producer or an engineer got that immersive experience.”