Continuing our look into sexism in music, this week we’re exploring UK Music’s Equality and Diversity Charter. Launched in 2012, the charter had four simple aims:

  • To recruit from a wide talent pool
  • To improve equality and diversity at senior decision making levels
  • To participate in or run activities that promote equality and diversity in the music industry
  • To share methods of increasing equality and diversity

It’s five years on and the initiative has made some progress. Earlier this year, Suzanne Bull MBE was appointed Disability Champion for the music industry in a bid to improve disabled access. But has the charter done anything to improve the cripplingly high level of male dominance throughout the industry?

In short, the answer is no. A glance at the executives of the three biggest record labels operating in the UK tells you all you need to know. Universal’s executive board is made up of nine men but only two women, figures matched exactly by Sony, whereas Warner Music Group boasts even more testosterone with 13 male senior figures to two female.

UK Music itself has made some progress, employing a balanced team of eight in its London headquarters, but its Diversity and Equality Charter appears powerless against the global behemoths of Sony and co. CEO Michael Dugher recently said, ‘as an industry we need to be doing far more to reflect the audiences we seek to entertain. There have been a host of improvements, but we can and should do more when it comes to diversity.’ 

But the fact is, as with so many initiatives, unless it is adopted by the most influential figures in the business, it is useless.

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher, ‘we need to be doing far more to reflect the audiences we seek to entertain’

The problem is frustratingly similar across the pond. In February this year, Billboard released its official Power 100, detailing the most influential figures in music. But of the 100 names listed, only 15 of them were women, none of whom graced the top 10. Sadder still, of these 15 women, only six occupy their own slot with the other nine forced to share spaces with men.

But when senior recruitment decisions at major labels are conducted predominantly by men, it’s hard to break the cycle of male dominance. Just last month Marie Claire reported that men still hold 67.8% of jobs in the industry and with it, an iron grip on power.

This male preeminence plays a huge part in upholding the wealth of discrepancies throughout the industry. From executive pay gaps to artist representation, women are consistently worse off than their male counterparts.

For change to be effective, it must start from the top. Without a strong female presence at every level, women in the industry are more likely to feel subordinate or, worse, sexualised.

So with little discernible success to its name, is it time to scrap the charter once and for all? UK Music, alongside the government, should instead put pressure on the figures running these labels to execute change from the inside. Impose harsher penalties on those that fail to meet diversity standards and reward the ones that do.

Of course equality and diversity shouldn’t have to be incentivised but unless male leaders embrace the need for change, charters like UK Music’s won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.

What can be done to improve equality at executive level? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ArtKompetes.