Even though some of country music’s biggest stars are women—Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, and Carrie Underwood, to name just a few—the genre is still considered a boys’ club by many within the industry. And now, a new study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has confirmed that the world of country music is still dominated by men.
According to the report, published on April 4th, only 16% of the 500 top country hits between 2014 and 2018 were by female artists. The frustrating trend even carries over into award nominations: The study notes that from 2015 to 2019, female country artists earned an average of 15% of the nominations at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. The report also notes that at the 2019 ACM Awards, not a single woman was nominated for Entertainer of the Year. Additionally, there seems to be some serious agism at play: The average age of the female artists on the country charts was 29, while the average age of the genre’s top male artists was 42.
Female songwriters were also extremely underrepresented (although the country charts weren’t much different than the mainstream Billboard charts on this one). Over five years, 12% of top country hits were written by women, versus 14% of Billboard Hot 100 hits.
Even though the findings of this study are depressing, three-time Grammy Award-winning country music singer Brandi Carlile told the Associated Press that she felt the study “raised awareness for all of us in a really big way.”
She added that she felt “what it will take is the men in country music speaking up” and all country artists coming together.
Both male and female country artists deserve recognition, and—with so many talented women on the scene—we hope this study will be a much-needed wake-up call.