Meghan Trainor's exclusive spot in this week's Top 40 is very upsetting

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It's easy to believe that there's gender equality in the music business, since ladies like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift dominate the cultural conversation, making hit after hit. But a look at the data reveals that overwhelmingly, those who are writing, creating, and performing American pop music are men.


This week's Billboard Top 40 chart is no exception: only 22.5% of songs were performed by women.

Women make up half of the American population, but represent less than a quarter of the pop charts. It's staggering. But looking at the statistics of female performers in 2015, it's exactly what we should expect.

In 2015, there hasn't been a single week that female performers have made up more than 35% of the Top 40 songs. Every single week, women are underrepresented in the Top 40 as performers.

Here's what the data looks like, starting in May:


Five months into this analysis, it's  clear that women make up somewhere between 20% and 30% of performers on average.

And the numbers are worse behind the scenes.

Top 40 songs are typically written in conjunction with a producer by a songwriter—who is, sometimes, the artist who performs the track, but not always. But generally it takes a few people to make a hit.


Take the number one song in America this week, The Weeknd's "The Hills": Its credits include 4 songwriters and 4 producers. Not unusual.

But in American pop music, the people creating the hits are almost entirely men.

Here's the gender breakdown for the songwriters of this week's Top 40:


It's pitiful. Of the 163 writers behind the Top 40 songs, only 18 are women. Every single song sung by a woman this week also had a female writer credited, but only three of the 28 songs performed by men had a female writer on staff. (To give them props, those songs are: "Locked Away" by R.City, "How Deep Is Your Love" by Calvin Harris, and "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran.)

It's even worse for producers:


This week, there were 81 producers who made this week's Top 40. Only a single one, Meghan Trainor, was a woman.

Producers are, arguably, the second most important person on a song after the performer. A producer controls what a song sounds like. Producers often select songs for singers and guide the track from conception to finished product. Producers have pronounced technical skills; they understand the way composition works, and have the ability to not only recognize a great beat, but to create one.


Meghan Trainor is (as many women in music are) perceived as the face of hit songs, a blonde woman who dances on the beat to the tune of millions of dollars. But Trainor is also on the producing credits of her song with John Legend, "Like I'm Gonna Lose You." It's a reminder that women are just as a capable of creating Top 40 hits as men.

But she is only one woman. Just 1% of this week's Top 40 producers. Women make up half of the population. Women love pop music. So why are the majority of people who create, sing, and write the most popular songs in American culture consistently and overwhelmingly men?



Guess how many songs in this week's Top 40 were produced by women? 

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Why are there so few women on the Top 40 chart?

Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.