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Women underrepresented on radio: only a quarter of songs are from women

26 February 2024
With millions of listeners every day, radio remains immensely popular in the Netherlands. However, gender equality in this medium lags behind: less than a quarter of all music played on the radio originates from women (22%). This is according to research by Felienne Hermans, professor of computer science didactics. "The diversity on the radio is very poor."

Hermans collected data through a self-set up "meta radio station," FemFM, which monitors Dutch radio stations and only stays tuned to a station if music by a woman is being played. Her survey shows that commercial stations perform better with an average female percentage of 22.5% compared to public ones (20%).

Hermans also observes notable differences between commercial and public stations: Veronica falls just below 16%, while Radio 10 leads with almost a third. Among public stations, Radio 3 tops the list with 23%, while Radio 5 lags behind the most, though the difference within public stations is small (19% versus 20% for Radio 3).

"On February 23, Radio 5 played only male artists (or bands with less than 50% women) from noon until half past 5, a remarkably long time!" said Hermans. This concerned the Evergreen of the 60s top where between number 33 and number 111, no female artists were featured. That's music from a long time ago, a different era, but it's still noteworthy. "You may well wonder if it's valuable to present a list in this manner in 2024."

The list of most played artists in February 2024 gives reason for optimism. P!nk leads the list, followed by Dua Lipa. In total, four women are in the top 10. Looking at broadcasters on public stations, it's Omroep Zwart that plays the most women at 42%, followed by VPRO with 35%. The worst is Max with 19%. Regarding programs, there's a notably female-dominated one, namely Groot Nieuws from EO, with an impressive 57%, the only program that exceeds 50%.

At the bottom of the list are, perhaps not surprisingly, the "Evergreen top of the 60s" (7%) and "The 70s and 80s Files" (10%), but also Ed Struijlaart, who hosts a program about guitar music, only plays 10% women!

"I hope my figures mainly provide insight into how large the imbalance still is. When I ask people to guess how many female musicians are on Dutch radio, they say 50 or even higher! But reality lags behind perception. It wasn't uncommon for me to have to switch ten times before hearing a woman on the radio. And some stations wouldn't play a single woman for five times in a row. Hopefully, radio stations will adjust their music choices, and perhaps listeners will also switch to more female-friendly programs or broadcasters?"

Representation of women's music on the radio, between February 1 and February 25, 2024.

2 20.41

3 23.00

5 19.12

10 29.50 <- highest

538 21.32

Q 25.02

Sky 24.00

Veronica 15.83 <- lowest

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