Junos Features

Why do women make up only 1/3 of Juno nominees?

The last year saw a wealth of music released by women — and the numbers need to reflect that.

The last year saw a wealth of music released by women — and the numbers need to reflect that.

Last March, Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award recipient Denise Donlon gave a rousing speech at the Juno Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony that pushed for gender equality and inclusivity. Referring to a women-only industry event that took place earlier that week, Donlon said, "We saw some sad numbers on female representation in every business, at the executive level and on boards and in politics. Frankly the numbers, they're a market fail."

Donlon concluded her speech by asking the men in the room — the men who were dedicated to creating more balance in the music industry — to stand up. The result: the majority of the room was on its feet. While visually disheartening to see how much space men still took up, their pledge to bettering the Canadian music scene was a meaningful gesture.

But in order to see that vision come to fruition, gender representation needs to be evident in the Juno nominations — and that is still a work in progress.

This year, women only make up 24.7 per cent of the overall nominations, with an additional 2.8 per cent for female-fronted groups with mostly male members, and 8.8 per cent for duos, trios or groups with a mix of genders. In comparison, 63.3 per cent of this year's nominees are men. It's a number that hasn't fluctuated too drastically over the years — last year, 24.1 per cent of the overall nominees were women — but it's simply too low (and not rising fast enough) to ignore.

(The calculation process looked primarily at names listed in the nominations. For example, the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year Award counted the producers who are named and not the artist with whom the producer worked.) 

In all the major non-genre-based categories — such as single of the year, album of the year, artist of the year and breakthrough artist and group of the year  — women are outnumbered by men. In the following categories, no women were nominated at all: rock album of the year, rap recording of the year, dance recording of the year, Jack Richardson Producer of the Year, recording engineer of the year and album artwork of the year.

Below is a visual breakdown of the Junos nomination process. While some awards — such as single of the year, international album of the year and album of the year — factor in sales figures in order to narrow down its nominees (which are later voted on by academy delegates or the CARAS board of directors), other more genre-specific categories are open to submissions and are then subjected to two rounds of voting by a jury of music industry members. (Full disclosure: some members of CBC Music are on the Junos jury for certain categories.) For a detailed explanation of how each category is broken down, you can head to the Junos website.

While some awards — such as single of the year and album of the year — factor in sales in order to narrow down its nominees, other genre-specific categories are open to submissions and then subjected to 2 rounds of voting by a jury of music industry members. (The Juno Awards)

This lack of representation isn't, and never is, due to a lack of talent, though. The last year alone saw rap group the Sorority carving out a feminist future for hip hop, Charlotte Day Wilson helming her own project by co-producing and co-engineering her Stone Woman EP (which is up for R&B/soul recording of the year), Céline Dion re-entering the soundtrack arena with the Deadpool 2 cut "Ashes," and producer Wondagurl landing some big tracks on rapper Travis Scott's chart-topping 2018 album, Astroworld. Not to mention notable releases from Metric, Ralph, Alice Glass, Dilly Dally, Partner, the Weather Station, Marie Davidson and U.S. Girls, all of whom either scored only one nomination or none at all.

The Sorority | SRTY | CBC Music

6 years ago
Duration 4:38
Featured VideoThe Sorority perform 'SRTY' for CBC Music.

To circle back to the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, for which Donlon was only the second woman to be named a recipient, this year's honouree is Duff Roman. The Humanitarian Award is being given to David Foster, and the Canadian Hall of Fame inductee is Corey Hart. All deserving names, but the backwards slide into an all-male lineup of recipients so far just ensures that the rooms Donlon was referencing continue to look overwhelmingly unbalanced.

Allan Reid addresses the gender gap in Junos nominations

5 years ago
Duration 1:21
Featured VideoAllan Reid addresses the gender gap in Junos nominations

When asked about this at the Junos nominations press conference on Jan. 29, president and CEO of CARAS, Allan Reid, responded: "It's something that we certainly look at every year. We don't have gender categories so everyone is basically competing in the same group, but I think it's something that is also going to take a little while to change." 

Reid also notes that the breadth of women in music represented at this year's Juno Awards broadcast will be encouraging for up-and-coming acts. This year's host is Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, and newcomer Bülow was announced as a performer in addition to Loud Luxury and Corey Hart. "I think having a balance of someone like Sarah, who is this iconic woman who's had this incredible career to someone like Bülow, who's just coming onto the Junos stage for the first time — I hope is inspiring for a lot of young women out there." 

Sarah Mclachlan addresses the gender gap in Junos nominations

5 years ago
Duration 0:28
Featured VideoSarah Mclachlan addresses the gender gap in Junos nominations

McLachlan, who was also at the press conference, was both surprised and saddened by these statistics. "I feel like there's so many more great women coming out and getting recognized," she says. "So I found that number surprising. I thought it would be a little bit more equal."

On the surface, it may look like Canada's biggest, most celebrated stars are mostly male: Drake (who hasn't submitted his work to the Junos in recent years), the Weeknd, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber and Michael Bublé. And while McLachlan is the face of the Junos this year as the host, there is still a wealth of diversity beyond this year's roster of performers and nominees. So how do we ensure that there's space for them?


  • This story was temporarily removed on Jan. 29 and republished in order to include a quote from a key source.
    Jan 30, 2019 12:26 PM ET