When speaking about the lack of inclusion for women in country music, the most common response that advocates and artists give when asked “how did we get here?” is often some version of, “I don’t know but something needs to change…”
As with all large-scale, systemic problems, the honest answer is likely hundreds of big and little happenings that, when combined, all helped create the current culture. Women didn’t fall off the chart overnight because of one singular action. There isn’t one person or group to “blame”. If anything, almost every aspect of the industry has been complicit in some form or another. If anyone should be held accountable, it’s all of us.
Every day that women are given only a single digit percentage of daytime airplay, and we allow it to happen again the next day, we are all accountable.
Every day that representation on streaming playlists can be counted on a single hand, and it stays that way the following day, we are all accountable.
Every time that only a single opportunity is made available for women on tours, lineups, showcases, and/or award recognitions, and we keep supporting those outlets, we are all accountable.
This isn’t one entity’s problem. It is everyone’s problem. And, while there may not be a specific person or place for us to hang the blame, there are a few knowable things that have changed in the last 20 years. We believe those changes matter, significantly, to how we got here. They aren’t all the factors and we don’t have all the answers but they do help paint a picture of some key contributors and that’s really important. There is also a knowable way radio can start making real change today and that matters too.
System changes change systems. Country music has gone through more than its fair share of system changes over the last two decades. Those changes seem to have had devastating consequences to at least one group in particular. We have to be willing to acknowledge that some of the “new methods” might have had intended or unintended consequences. You probably don’t still have your first mobile phone. At some point, you were willing to admit that maybe there was a better system available and pony up the cash (i.e. make a sacrifice) to give it a shot. This industry needs to take similar approaches in evaluating what might be best for its future.