Whew, the music industry seems real good at letting women down, doesn't it? It's a topic we've considered a lot recently, and it appears that there's still more to come. The UK government set a deadline for companies with more than 250 employees to declare their gender pay gaps, by Wednesday 4 April. This meant that the three major labels operating in the UK – Warner, Universal, and Sony – as well as booking conglomerate Live Nation were all required to report and publicly publish their wage gaps. So far, the big news is that Warner Music UK reported an average gender pay gap of 49 percent. That basically means that at Warners, over the last tax year, on average women earned 51p for every £1 that men earned. In summation: by about halfway through last year, on average a woman in there was working for free when compared to the hourly rate a man would have earned. :)
This, of course, is absolutely staggering, but feels inevitable in an industry that's dominated by men at the highest level, and which tends to employ women in more junior roles with fewer promotions. Warner Music UK's report showed that 74 percent of the highest-earning quartile at the label are men, while 26 percent of that group are women. "While women occupy 42 percent of all roles," the report read, "just over 16 percent sit in senior management or leadership positions. In the report's introduction, Masha Osherova – Warner Music Group's European Vice President for human resources – wrote the following statement:
"Our current gender pay gap numbers make starkly clear the need for us to accelerate the pace of change within our company. For the past three years, we’ve been focused on making WMUK a more dynamic and forward-thinking organisation. While we’ve made real progress in many different areas, we’re acutely aware there’s still much more work to do, especially if we are to be as diverse and inclusive as we aspire to be and if we are to increase the number of women in leadership roles."
But let's be clear, this isn't just an issue at Warners. Within the music industry more broadly, Live Nation reported a mean or average 46 percent pay gap between men and women. Universal reported an average gap of 29.8 percent, while Sony reported 22.7 percent. Both labels also saw more men in top positions (a 70 percent-30 percent male to female split of the highest-earning quartile for Universal, and a 63.3 percent-36.7 percent of that same at Sony.)
It's worth stating that the Sony's median pay gap – which shows you the salary midpoint, rather than taking a straight-up average like the mean pay gaps I've discussed so far – is less dire, at 4.6 percent (the UK national median pay gap is at about 9 percent). But the fact remains, that no matter how you crunch the numbers, women are still being remunerated at lower overall rates than men at some of the biggest music companies in the country. And though the problem can now be addressed by promoting more women, it's yet more damning evidence that the music industry seems to struggle to do that while also nurturing women at most levels, which would allow them to rise to the top too. It's and an indication of just how long there is to go until the work women do for music is properly recognised – creatively and now, as we see, financially.
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