Women of Color Are Growing Songwriting Community, Annenberg Inclusion Report Finds

The University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has crunched the numbers for 2023 to reveal its annual findings on inclusion and diversity in the recording studio. The results this year are strikingly more positive than what has been a consistent result of previous years: women producers and singer-songwriters are drastically underrepresented.

Though gains are always to be made, “these findings are trending in a way that is more women-centric,” a summary of the results for 2023 reads. The report is compiled by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in partnership with Spotify.

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In observation of the last 12 years, and 1,200 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts, the study assesses the number of women artists, songwriters, and producers in addition to examining six major categories at the Grammy Awards: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, best new artist, producer of the year, and songwriter of the year.

In 2023, there was a significant uptick for women artists, particularly women solo performers. Though little has changed for women in bands or duos, individual women artists filled 40.6% of spots on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart in 2023, an increase of over 5% since 2022.

“For the second year in a row, the percentage of women artists on the popular charts has increased,” commented Dr. Smith. “This is a notable milestone and worthy of celebration. However, it is still important to recognize that there is room to grow. Women filled less than one-quarter of artist roles across all 12 years examined, and these figures are still far from representing the 50% of women in the population and the music audience.”

Although only 19.5% of women were credited on a song that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts in 2023, it was the first year the percentage rose above 15%. Taking into consideration the race and ethnicity of these women, 55 women of color worked as songwriters in 2023. This represents a significant increase in the number of women of color songwriters from 2022 (33) to 2023 (55) and a 12-year high.

The report also notes that 56% of songs in 2023 included at least one woman songwriter — an increase from 2022 and the highest percentage in 12 years.

“The changes for songwriters are doubtlessly due to the work of numerous groups working to support women in music,” said Dr. Smith. “This advocacy and activism is propelling change in the industry. While there is work to be done, these groups are well-positioned to keep fighting for change.”

Less is to be said about women in producer roles since there were 217 producers credited on the 2023 Hot 100 Year-End Charts and of those, 6.5% were women and 93.5% were men. In fact, the ratio of male producers to underrepresented women producers is 100.4 to 1.

With the Grammys just around the corner, the report assessed the intersectionality of gender, race and ethnicity across 12 years of nominations and found that 52% of women nominees were white and 47% were from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. Compared to 2023 (61.7%) and 2022 (58.8%), there was a decrease in nominations for women of color in 2024 (36.6%). 2024 was on par with 2013 (33.3%) in terms of the percentage of nominations for women of color.

On a more cheerful note, nearly one-quarter (24%) of nominations across the major categories went to women in 2024 —a significant increase from 2023 (15.5%). This year, the most nominated act of the evening is a woman of color, R&B singer and songwriter SZA, who leads the list with nine nominations including nods in the night’s biggest categories like song and album of the year. Victoria Monét, who has won Grammys in previous years as a songwriter for Grande, also earned an impressive seven nominations for her solo work. In each of these categories, the percentage of women nominees increased significantly from 2023 to 2024 and from the first year the awards were evaluated (2013).

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