In a recent email to its members, the Recording Academy boasts of nearly 50 percent of Grammy nominations in 2023 being women despite oversights in major categories, where women stood at 15.2 percent. The major categories are Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Songwriter of the Year, and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. In fact, despite 65 years of existence, the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical award has never been won by a female nominee. However, the Grammys are not necessarily overlooking female and non-binary producers; there are just fewer of them in chart-topping records.
This was the third year in a row with all-male nominees since Linda Perry’s nomination in 2019, who was the first woman nominated since 2004. Perry is a rarity in an industry where only 3.4 percent of producers are women. For women of color, the pick is even slimmer, with only 13 out of 1,756 producing credits attributed to them. (Note: the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative only examines mainstream songs when gathering this data.)
Spurred by the Recording Academy’s Women in the Mix study, “hundreds of music professionals and organizations…pledge to consider at least two women in the selection process every time a producer or engineer is hired.” (Emphasis mine.) However, this pledge has minimal impact on the year’s most popular songs. In 2022, only one pledge-taker worked with a woman producer on a Billboard Hot 100 Year-End song and zero worked with women engineers. This is a decrease from last year’s four and five, respectively.
Although less prevalent, female producers do exist and are often pioneers in their own genres. Billboard’s Women in Music Awards recognized this by awarding Rosalía its inaugural producer of the year award. As Rosalía notes, the work of producers (and engineers) is often understated and far less glamorous. She declares “I make my own music and I produce my own songs and I write my own songs,” which is reminiscent of legendary acts like Björk and Missy Elliot, who she also recognizes in her speech.
Missy Elliot has received little recognition despite producing and writing songs for an impressive list of artists; and she knows it. She says “if a man would have done half the records that I’ve done we would know about it.” Björk, a pioneer in the avant-garde genre, feels the same way. Following the recent comeback of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” which is entirely self-written and self-produced, Björk notes that both women have been brutally caricatured for their eccentricity. She says “We’re both producers…If we were guys, we would be taken more seriously.”
SOPHIE, who died two years ago at the age of 34, was a visionary producer in electronic and avant-garde pop. SOPHIE’s collaborations with Charli XCX, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Vince Staples, and so many more paved the way for so much of the music we hear today. SOPHIE deserves to be remembered as such.
These are just a few of the female and gender-expansive producers that fly under the radar. Besides Linda Perry, only six other women have been nominated for the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical award and half of them weren’t even nominated on their own. (The Producer of the Year, Classical award has had three female winners: Judith Sherman, Joanna Nickrenz, and Elaine L. Martone.) Although music lovers everywhere lament the death of its cultural relevance, with oversights like this, the Grammys are only compounding its issues.
The Recording Academy has generously pledged a total of $50,000 to companies focused on supporting women and girls in music, which is certainly a right step forward, but clearly more needs to be done. In their latest Women in the Mix study, the Recording Academy suggests increased resources and structural support in the form of mentorships, paid internships, and additional paid time off for better work/life balance to address gender disparities. In the meantime, we should recognize the talents and contributions of these innovative producers.
You can check out some of the organizations supporting women in the recording industry right here: we are moving the needle, girls who listen, Girls Behind the Rock Show, Beats By Girlz, and Girls Make Beats.
We’ve also compiled a playlist of songs featuring our favorite female and non-binary producers. Listen below now! Our playlist features the producers mentioned above as well as PinkPantheress, H.E.R., WondaGurl, and more. Think we missed any? (And we’re sure we did!) Let us on Instagram or Twitter!
Buket is recent graduate of the University of Georgia (Music Business Alum) and the current Editor-in-Chief of Vinyl Mag. She believes that a sincere lover of music can find something to like in just about any song. She loves to write to observe and learn about the world. She is currently on a gap year abroad, spending her free time drumming up new ideas for Vinyl Mag and trying to beat her previous Spotify Wrapped "My Minutes Listened" record.