A Global Perspective on Gender and Music

The music industry is male-dominated. There are more guys out there producing, performing, and becoming involved in music. In the United States we tend to say that this is because women are kept out of certain genres or because women are forced to sexualize themselves to make it in the music industry, but our perspective is very limited to the United States. We hardly ever think about other countries. Music transcends borders, cultures, and religions. It affects everyone and so does the gender debate. In Pakistan for example, women also face trouble working in the music industry. They face the barrier of gender inequality as well as political unrest and judgment from their families.

Unequal opportunities for women in Pakistan prevent them from working in the music industry. The Pakistani music industry is moving away from Classical Music and toward Pop, and Classic Rock. The overwhelming number of male musicians alone is a barrier for women trying to enter the field. On top of this, women are discouraged from performing music in general, and especially Classic Rock and Pop because it is seen as “manly”. If a woman gets lucky, she may be able to become a pupil of a male artist, but she will probably never take the next step and become a musician herself. The Pakistani people have very conservative ideas about female mobility and independence. Their views don’t apply to just the music industry. The gender gap shapes the way of life in Pakistan. Not shockingly, the country ranks last in the world for equal job participation. In the music industry this gender gap is due in part to unequal opportunities for women in the music industry.

Women in Pakistan also have to overcome the impact of political instabilities. Political instability causes many security problems that can prevent female musicians from performing.  Concert performers are always dealing with strikes and shut downs. Females in particular have to be concerned about performing for primarily male crowds and performing at night. Some militant groups in Pakistan, like the Taliban think that women performing concerts, especially at night is inappropriate. The Pakistani think that performing at night as a female is a huge risk. Some feel that even the police cannot be trusted and that all female performers should travel with a trusted male. The instability of the region and the lack of control of authority figures prevents female musicians from performing.

On top of the instability and unequal opportunity, female musicians in Pakistan are affected by the attitudes of their families. Many Pakistani families do not like the idea of women working in music or working period, so access to music education and performance is very limited for women. The feeling of the support of one’s family is very important to a musician. Many talented musicians never emerge on the music scene because they do not feel supported by their families. The family’s attitude toward women in music can have great impact on whether or not Pakistani females pursue musical careers.

The music industry is male dominated and this does not just affect us in the United States. It affects various other cultures and countries in unique ways. In Pakistan, unequal opportunities for women, political instability and familial support can greatly impact a woman’s success or even accessibility to the music industry. Unlike we tend to think here, the underlying issues run much deeper than exclusion and sexuality.


Toppa, Sabrina. Pakistan: Woman Musician Speaks Out About ‘the Gender Challenge’. 28 October 2014. Electronic. 11 November 2014.


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