This story is part of Billboard‘s Mujeres Latinas en la Música package.
Karol G’s Mañana Será Bonito made history when it debuted at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart dated March 5. Previously, only two all-Spanish albums led the list, both by Bad Bunny (Un Verano Sin Ti in 2022 and El Último Tour del Mundo in 2020).
To some, the landmark moment symbolizes a turning point for women in Latin music and beyond.
The reality is that when you zoom out of that one history-making feat and look at the bigger picture, women artists (from singers to songwriters and producers) are still underrepresented in Latin music; they’re not streamed as much as men are, and they’re still not having major impact on the charts — artists such as Karol G and Selena notwithstanding.
Two of the top five Latin albums of 2021 were by women (according to Billboard and MRC Data’s year-end report), only one of those, Karol G’s KG0516, was a new album. The other was Selena’s Ones, a chart mainstay.
Karol G is also one of only two women who’ve had No. 1 releases on the Top Latin Albums chart between 2020 and 2023: Karol G, with KG0516 (2021) and Mañana Será Bonito (2023), and Selena Gomez, with Revelación (2021). Not a single woman placed a No. 1 album on the chart in 2020 or 2022. So far, men have placed 18 No. 1 albums in the past three years.
Men outpacing women reflects what we’ve seen since the 1990s, around when the chart was launched. For example, from 2000 to 2009, 23 albums by women peaked at No. 1 on the chart, compared with 123 by men. From 2010 to 2017, just 19 women-led projects, compared with 150 albums by men, ruled the chart. They included the late Jenni Rivera, with six No.1 albums, Thalía with three and Shakira with two. Women did not place a No. 1 album in 2018 or 2019.
On Hot Latin Songs, the story is similar. In the early 1990s and 2000s, women were scoring more No. 1s. But then there was a shift. From 2010 to 2019 — when reggaetón, a genre led by mostly men, dominated streaming and radio airplay — only 14 No. 1s were by women artists. In that same period, men placed nearly 80 No. 1 songs.
So far, in the 2020s, men have placed 16 No. 1s on the chart, compared with just eight for women.
They include Shakira and Bizarrap’s head-turning “BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” the first Spanish-language song by a woman to debut in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. That track, in turn, was followed by “TQG” by Shakira and Karol G, which peaked at No. 7, making it two in quick succession.
So far, in the 2020s, men have placed 16 No. 1s on the Hot Latin songs chart, compared with just eight for women, according to Luminate numbers.
While it is a notable milestone, it also speaks to the lack of women-led tracks on the Hot 100; men have placed 15 No. 1s between 2020 and 2023 thus far.
Elsewhere, only two women have reached No. 1 on the Latin Songwriters chart: Mexican music up-and-comer Yahritza Martinez (of Yahritza y Su Esencia) and Karol G. And not a single woman has appeared on the Top Latin Producers chart, which ranks the top 10 producers of the week. Both charts were launched in 2019.
It’s hard to pinpoint why the numbers for women simply aren’t there, but “limited opportunities are definitely part [of the issue],” says Alexandra Lioutikoff, president of Latin America and U.S. Latin at Universal Music Publishing Group. “I think men tend to bring their friends — usually other men — into writing rooms without really thinking twice about it. It’s changing, but it’s going to take more time.”
The numbers also reflect what is happening outside the United States; more specifically, how women artists are performing in Latin America. According to Luminate data from eight Latin American countries, women make up 23% of the top 100 artists overall in Latin America by total audio and video streams. Men make up 70%. Five percent is mixed (a group made up of women and men), and 2% is null (unable to pull gender makeup). In streaming, based on the top 100 artists, women don’t compare to men. For example, in Colombia, men comprise 79.6% of the streams and women 11.7%. (All data is based on the week ending Feb. 23.)
The root of the issue is a bit more systemic, says Grammy- and Latin Grammy-winning producer-composer Claudia Brant. If there’s to be any significant change for women representation, it needs to start from the top. “There’s a disconnect when it comes to labels hiring women producers or doing songwriting camps that are all women. It’s always a mix. In most cases it’s 10 men and a woman. That also affects the language that is being used in a song, hence why women are still objects.”
Brant adds that she hopes more women take more risks to stand out and defy structural or industry expectations. “Rosalía, I don’t know what planet she’s from; she has her own ideas and her own point of view and her own style of producing and writing. She blows everyone’s mind because she doesn’t care, she does whatever she wants.”
“There’s a disconnect when it comes to labels hiring women producers or doing songwriting camps that are all women. It’s always a mix. In most cases it’s 10 men and a woman. That also affects the language that is being used in a song, hence why women are still objects.”
Claudia Brant, songwriter
The Spanish star — who this year became Billboard’s first Women in Music producer of the year honoree — previously expressed to Billboard why producing was a way to gain creative control of her artistry. “I realized that I wanted to decide what I was going to sing. I also wanted to decide what I was going to say and how it would sound,” Rosalía said. “I became a songwriter and producer because I cared way too much.”
There are organizations that are taking matters into their own hands to advance the representation of women on the charts and beyond. She Is the Music and We Are Moving the Needle focus on mentorship, networking and providing scholarships for women who are in the early stages of their careers.
“We have the largest global database of female creatives and executives in music,” says Lioutikoff, who is the co-chair of the Latin committee for She Is the Music. “It’s not only placing women in their first jobs in the industry, but also providing one-on-one opportunities for women to learn about the business, whether on the executive or creative side.”
Brant, who’s part of the Latin Recording Academy’s mentorship program, says that it’s all about telling women that nothing is impossible. “We have to make them understand that it’s doable, that they have to go for their dreams and make them a reality.”
Tickets to Billboard‘s Latin Women In Music can be purchased here.