Resources for Research on Women and Non-Binary People in Audio

SoundGirls has not conducted or is in the position to conduct and publish studies on statistics about gender and racial diversity. It is extremely difficult to run these studies within the audio industry as it is so fragmented. For example:

  • The studies that do exist are heavily biased towards music production.
  • Studies conducted by The Recording Academy only reflect people working in the recording arts. 
  • The AES tried to derive gender information about their members in a 2016 survey (they found 7% were women). But, their study was only within their membership and only by members that wished to contribute gender information.
  • General studies of the entertainment industry (such as the film industry, game industry, etc) often do not give separate data about sound people.
  • Diverse genders are often not included (studies are broken down by women/men only)

When terms like “women in audio” are used by the mainstream media, it is typically associated with music-related jobs such as live sound and music production (see “The Atlantic: Why Aren’t There More Women Working in Audio?, NPR: “If You Want To Be Somewhere, You’ve Got To Occupy It”). However, professional audio is made up of a wide range of disciplines: music production, live sound, broadcast sound, sound for picture (production and post-production), audiobooks, podcasts, education, research, AV, IT, product development, and beyond. Anecdotally, some areas are stagnant, and others show a faster pace of growth towards inclusiveness.

Ideas for those interested in conducting research

  • Analyze award nominees in sound categories for gender (and race) over time
  • Analyze membership data of industry organizations
  • Gather alumni data (by school); what percentage of students starting in a program vs graduating are not men/do not identify as men, what percentage of graduates stay in the field year after year (by gender)

Published Studies

Music production

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (ongoing studies)

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative: Inclusion in the Recording Studio?

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative: Gender and Race/Ethnicity of Artists, Songwriters & Producers across 800 Popular Songs from 2012-2019

Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship: “Women in the U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities” (2019)

Final Report of the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion (2019)

A Studio Of One’s Own: Music Production, Technology And Gender – Paula Wolfe Journal on the Art of Record Production November 2012

Do We Really Want to Keep the Gate Threshold That High? Journal of the Audio Engineering Society Volume 69 Issue 4:

Gendered Experiences of Discrimination and Microaggressions in the Recording Studio (French subtitles available)

Game Audio

  • In 2019, 13.6% of video game composers and sound designers surveyed by Game Sound Con were women and non-binary. 
  • It was 7% in 2015

Source: Game Sound Con (they have collecting survey data yearly since 2014, which includes diverse genders)

Addendum to the Game Audio Industry Survey 2016: An Analysis of Income Differences Between Men and Women in Game Audio

Film & Television

Diversity in Post-Production Sound Roles in UK Television Production: Emma Butt (begins page 12; study from 2019)

In 2019, of the 250 top-grossing movies of the year:

  • Women accounted for 9% of supervising sound editors. 92% of films had no female supervising sound editors.
  • Women comprised 4% of sound designers. 97% of films had no female sound designers.
  • Women comprised 6% of composers. 94% of films had no female composers
  • Women accounted for 40% of music supervisors. 74% of films had no female music supervisors.

Source: Women and Hollywood 2019 Statistics

In 2008, in the top 250 domestic grossing movies of the year:

  • Women accounted for 5% of supervising sound editors. 96% of films had no female supervising sound editors.
  • Women comprised 5% of sound designers. 97% of films had no female sound designers.

Source: The Celluloid Ceiling II: Production Design, Production Management, Sound Design, Key Grips, and Gaffers 

Film/TV Industry stats (not specific to Sound)

The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top U.S. Films of 2020

Blue Collar Post Collective Surveys & Studies

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: Research

Inequality in 1,200 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBTQ & Disability from 2007 to 2018 (Includes some data on composers)

Hollywood Diversity Report 2019 from UCLA College of Social Sciences

Academic Textbooks

Women in Audio (2019) Leslie Gaston-Bird; has chapters on history, advocacy groups, and individual profiles

Gender in Music Production (2020) Edited By Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, Jay Hodgson, Liesl King, Mark Marrington

Women in the Studio: Creativity, Control and Gender in Popular Music Sound Production (2021) Paula Wolfe

Academic Papers

Unlocking the Control Room: Equity Achievements in Audio AES Show Fall 2020

Women in Audio: Contributions and Challenges in Music Technology and Production September 2016, 141st Audio Engineering Society Convention

Why Diversity Programs Fail—And How to Fix Them – SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal (Volume: 127, Issue: 9, Oct. 2018)

Miscellaneous Resources

SoundGirls Profiles on Women in Audio

SoundGirls: Women in the Music Industry

The EQL Directory: A Database for Women and Gender Non-Conforming Audio Professionals (Powered by SoundGirls, made possible by Spotify)

POC in Audio Directory

POC Theatre Designers and Techs

AES Diversity and Inclusion Committee (created 2016)