Female Country Stars Talk Pushing for More Diversity and Representation in Industry

by Jennifer Shea

Three female country music stars are calling for more female songwriters and more diverse singers in the country music industry.

On ABC’s “Country Strong 2020: Countdown to the CMA Awards,” Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton and Kelsea Ballerini shared their thoughts on women in country music.

Country Stars Say Industry Is Changing

“I’ve seen more women, especially new artists, have No. 1s on the country music chart than I have in the last 10 years,” Morris said of the past year. She said she’s watched the industry “evolve,” and that’s a good thing.

Morris praised the advocacy of female artists to raise women’s representation in the industry. She argued that their refusal to quiet down has actually led to better music.

“For a while, there were women that were trying to sound like the boys and do that truck thing,” she added. “And I’m kind of glad that that had its moment and went away because now I think that all it does is foster more female writers. When there are more female songwriters, you make way for better songs for women and better songs for them to record.”

A Place in the Industry

For her part, Ballerini said she’s lucky to have made it onto the radio. Moreover, she feels a responsibility to lift young women up and make sure there’s a spot for them in the industry.

“There are incredibly talented women in the music industry – just like there are incredibly talented men,” she said. “And I just hope for the industry’s sake, and hope for the sake of the young women and men that are sitting at home, wondering if they have a place, that we do a better job of not addressing it, but changing it, and moving it forward and evolving as a genre.”

Guyton said it’s tough for women to break into country music regardless of race.

“It’s very competitive… and it’s hard to get that support,” she said, referring to radio play. “It’s also hard for so many women, period, within this industry.”

She said it means a lot to her that people tell her she’s breaking barriers.

“There are so many young people that are not getting the attention whatsoever that are breaking way more barriers than I could ever even imagine,” Guyton added. “And I think it’s really cool, and I thank people for saying that – but there are so many more people that are doing so much more than me.”

Studies Find It’s Getting Worse

Research has found that the situation for women in country music actually got worse over recent years. A 2018 study found a 10% decline in the number of women debuting on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart between 1996 and 2016. And it showed a 27% drop in women reaching the No. 1 position on the chart. 

A 2019 study found that women are receiving drastically fewer radio spins than men. And songs by female artists comprised on average 8.8% of the Top 10 songs on weekly airplay reports. That’s compared to a high of 90.2% for men.