While diversity might be improving in the U.K., several studies are pointing to a disappointing growing gender gap internationally.

BBC and a few other organizations conducted research comparing artists and genders represented in 2008 and 2018. While men represented in the Billboard top 100 have increased by over 50%, women have remained at a consistent 30 total. Not 30%, but 30 in total.

Several studies have identified barriers to entry for women in music, including gate keeping and old fashioned traditions, to say the least. The proportion of women nominated for Grammys over the last decade speaks leagues.

While these statistics are shocking to some, it’s undeniable we’re hearing women’s voices frequently, and the popularity of several hit women alone leave many questioning: What exactly is happening? How am i hearing so many songs with women vocals, yet see such little representation in polling and awards?

Many are turning their focus to collaborations. Collaborations are a double edged sword, offering pros and cons for female artists, it seems. They’re more common now than ever, with teams pairing up to cut through the noise of the streaming era, and it’s tough to say if it’s hurting or helping minorities already underrepresented.

On one hand, collaborations are a good way for one act to get exposure with the fans of another. Collaborations often occur cross genre, as fans of a specific genre may already be familiar with an artists’ work. This is a positive effect, especially when featured artists are up and coming, less known artists, as it gives extreme exposure.

On the other hand, there’s a systemic way in which collaborations are expressed, often as features and not joint contributors. More men producers, like Calvin Harris and DJ Khaled, receive credit for singles featuring women vocals. This isn’t an issue if the credit is divided equally, which is not the traditional method.

Dance and Hip Hop are currently responsible for the majority of hits, which are also majority male artists, despite female features.

On the flip side, female singles and artists are also looking for features, as they often have in-house production and don’t need to collaborate with producers. To differ their genre exposure, they look to hip hop and R&B, which is also predominately male. That simply increases the gender gap for women in music in the top 100.

It’s an interesting dilemma, and one that won’t be solved one off. Collaboration exposure helps women artists. That can’t be denied. But equal credit and consistently working to improve industry practices for women in music seems to be a better aide, at least for now.