Not only are women missing at the top of music charts, they’re mostly absent from behind the scenes too

Tinashe performs at the HARD Summer Music Festival on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
Tinashe performs at the HARD Summer Music Festival on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
(Jenna Schoenefeld / For the Los Angeles Times)

Taylor Swift’s latest single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” is essentially a lock to land at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, making it the first cut this year by a solo female artist to reach the pinnacle of the tally.

But while there’s been some talk of a lack of women atop the charts in 2017, the same attention is rarely given to the scarcity of women behind the scenes in the music industry. Though plenty of hits are being written by women, its highly unlikely that any of those songs were produced or engineered by one.

Consider this: No woman has ever won the prestigious producer of the year, non-classical Grammy in the award’s 52 years of existence, and only six have ever been nominated. In fact, by many estimates, only 5% of producers and engineers working in the industry today are female.


Changing those figures is seen as key to diversifying pop music, and it’s also the driving force behind San Francisco-based nonprofit Women’s Audio Mission, which provides hands-on training in audio engineering and the recording arts.

“Women’s Audio Mission uses music and media and an incredible ‘carrot’ of a training environment – the only professional recording studio in the world built and run by women – to attract over 1,200 under-served women and girls every year to ... creative technology studies,” the organization’s mission statement reads.

When singer-songwriter Tinashe began working with other producers she was shocked at how often collaborators were surprised she knew how to navigate a studio.

“There was this underestimating that was happening being young and female on the production and technical side of things,” she recalled. “The fact that I had all of this knowledge and could instruct engineers on what I wanted [things] to sound like and be very specific — it threw some people for a loop and opened their eyes a bit.”

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »


For more music news follow me on Twitter:@GerrickKennedy


‘When you’re black you have to fight’: Tinashe, Kehlani and other female R&B artists struggle for attention