NEW YORK – In 2018, the Grammy Awards faced criticism when male artists swept the most prestigious music awards – prompting Recording Academy president Neil Portnow to say the solution is for women to “step up.” But the truth is women artists have been stepping up for decades, according to research from Columbia Business School’s Professor of Business Michael Mauskapf and Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior Noah Askin. Their new research shows more women than men are participating in creative industries, but social factors—rather than differences in raw ability—are responsible for a number of gender disparities including a lack of recognition and differences in pay.
The research uses data analytics to determine differences in the songs of female versus male artists. Researchers analyzed an extensive dataset of over 250,000 songs produced and released over a 45 year period, using music information retrieval (MIR) to evaluate a song’s unique acoustic fingerprints and determine “novelty.” The analysis focused on ten features of a song, ranging from standard elements like tempo, key, and time signature, to more subjective ones including “energy” and “danceability.” The results show no meaningful difference between the genders when it came to a song’s distinctiveness, but instead suggest that collaboration networks or the gender makeup of genres place a higher burden on women’s creative output, holding them to a higher standard.
Notably, the study finds that products created by women exhibit even greater creativity when they are compared to the work of men, providing strong quantitative evidence for something that underrepresented groups have known intuitively for generations: women, and particularly women underrepresented in their field, must work twice as hard to reach the same heights as their male counterparts.
The study, Are Women More Creative Than Men? The Gendered Effects of Networks and Genres on Musical Creativity is available online here.
About the researcher
Michael Mauskapf is an Assistant Professor of Management at Columbia Business School, where he studies the dynamics of creativity, innovation, and success in cultural...Read more.