Zahyia is a songwriter, lyricist, producer, and artistic visionary who has devoted her life to “existing in spaces that uplift and transform limited narratives.” (Courtesy of Zahyia)

The music industry is imbalanced, women are underrepresented. In a study conducted by the University of Southern California (USC), the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that women made up 35.3 percent of C-suite executives among the 4,060 music executives surveyed. Zooming into women of color, they share much lower representation.

The Los Angeles Sentinel had an exclusive interview with a powerful woman in the industry. Zahyia is a songwriter, lyricist, producer, and artistic visionary who has devoted her life to “existing in spaces that uplift and transform limited narratives.”

She continues to bring awareness to the Black American woman. Zahyia uncovered ways to push conventional boundaries in the world of music.

Studies reveal that people of color have been mistreated by those in positions of power in the music industry, especially women. They have been oversexualized and disrespected in various aspects of the entertainment realm. According to Rolling Stone magazine, only 14.4 percent of lyricists were female in 2019.  In all the other parts of the industry, women made up only five percent of producers in 2019, bringing the eight-year average to 2.5 percent.

A Forbes article stated gender inequality is widespread across the industry. The source stated that TuneCore, a self-governing digital music supplier, partnered with MIDiA Research to publish their 2021 survey.

The study polled 401 female creatives from Europe and North America. This included artists, songwriters, producers, and dee jays. Key insights recognized significant challenges that women face in the industry, according to those responded to the survey.

Major social media shifts like the #MeToo movement pushed for mainstream awareness and called for fundamental change in gender-based harassment. Ageism is another problem that has blighted the music industry since its inception, 38 percent of the respondents named this as one of the top challenges women presently face in the industry.

Singer-songwriter Zahyia recognized this first-hand and shared her experience with the L.A. Sentinel. “I’ve seen the decline in representation of women, when it comes to the backend side of things,” she stated. She continued by elaborating on the reality that Black women have to face “behind the scenes” of chasing their dreams in a male-dominated field.

Zahyia said, “I do think that part of the reason why there’s a decline of women in the back-end is there’s much less tolerance for that type of behavior of that type of objectification from our peers.” The producer shared that there is a “heavy fog of toxic masculinity” within the music industry.

“I think it’s because there’s no safety net. This is an accepted culture in the music industry,” she noted. “As a woman, you don’t often get to protect yourself from the way that you look or the way that you identify yourself.”

Alluding to the energy surrounding the music industry, Zahyia observed, “We’re facing this wall of toxic masculinity. And so, in every aspect, with all the different hats that you have to wear as an individual artist can really become overwhelming — how do you want to protect your yourself, how you want to protect your overall face, and it does take a certain type of individual, to be able to say, ‘you know what, regardless of that, I can handle this.’”

The creative producer shared her excitement in the new growth in female voices on social media. Zahyia said, “It’s been great to see so many women from Iraq — I see on TikTok, women producers, women artists, writers, things of that sort, in the social media world. But again, I do think that a lot of women are still being blocked by what’s expected.”

Sources listed above also provided the following possible solutions to this pressing issue:

-encourage mentorship to support women already in the field

-create clear pathways and opportunities to leadership roles for women

-address gender inequality in music, which Is key to the industry’s future success

The authors of USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative believe that by publishing this data, it is possible to shift those facts.

“This is our first foray into the music scene and one of many studies to come,” said Leah Fischman, board chair of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Also, she told Billboard magazine that the initiative will dig deeper into the minority representation in the music industry in the near future.