New UK report states women in music industry face ‘endemic’ misoygyny

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The Women and Equalities Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs appointed to scrutinise the UK Government on equalities, has held an inquiry into the music sector. The report looks at misogynistic attitudes in the industry and how these attitudes impact on the wider society.

It found that women were underrepresented in key roles across the industry, that sexual harassment and abuse was common, and that many women did not report the incidents as they worried about the detrimental impact on their careers – and whether they would be believed. 

The committee concluded that the issue was “endemic” and called for urgent action to tackle it.

“People in the industry who attend award shows and parties currently do so sitting alongside sexual abusers who remain protected by the system and by colleagues,” the report said.

It added: “The music industry has always prided itself on being a vehicle for social change; when it comes to discrimination, and the harassment and sexual abuse of women, it has a lot of work to do.”

The report also states that much of the evidence they received “has had to remain confidential, including commentary on television shows and household names.” It adds that this state of affairs is “highly regrettable” and demonstrates “the extent of the use of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and the culture of silence.”

The committee has called for NDAs to be banned when it comes to cases of sexual abuse, harassment or misconduct, as well as urged ministers to increase investment in talent from a range of backgrounds.

They also said that gatekeepers judge women on their looks rather than ability and work has been lost because of people saying they are “not attractive enough” or do not have “the right body type”.

The report concluded: “Women in the music industry have had their lives ruined and their careers destroyed by men who have never faced the consequences for their actions.

Caroline Nokes MP

Chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes MP, called for a “shift in the behaviour of men” in the industry to ensure the “transformative change” needed.

The group has recommended a number of measures to be put in place, including changing the Equalities Act to offer more protections to freelance workers and increased investment to get more women into the sector.

Indeed, while the MPs said abuse and discrimination was not unique in music, it was “amplified” by the high number of freelance workers, the informal nature of many workplaces, and “late-night working, often in places where alcohol and drugs are available, can result in women working in environments that are unsafe”.

Nokes said: “Women’s creative and career potential should not have limits placed upon it by ‘endemic’ misogyny which has persisted for far too long within the music industry.”

She added: “Our report rightly focuses on improving protections and reporting mechanisms, and on necessary structural and legislative reforms. However, a shift in the behaviour of men – and it is almost always men – at the heart of the music industry is the transformative change needed for talented women to quite literally have their voices heard and be both recognised and rewarded on equal terms.”

In a joint statement, Jo Twist, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), and YolanDa Brown, musician and BPI chairwoman, said misogyny is “completely unacceptable”.

They added: “This report contains some thoughtful recommendations and recognises that all parts of our industry have a shared responsibility to tackle this important issue head on.”

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