Women in music talk about leadership roles, 2016 election

The music industry and gender equality
The music industry and gender equality

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The music industry and gender equality 02:32

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  • "From the moment you walk out of your door as a woman, guys are looking at you on the street and judging you," Taylor Brode tells CNN
  • "The largest artists right now in the music business are female," Molly Neuman tells CNN

Austin, Texas (CNN)Whether you're international pop sensation Taylor Swift or recording manager Taylor Brode, being a woman in the music industry isn't easy, three high-powered female leaders in independent music say.

But Brode, Molly Neuman and Maggie Vail say they're doing their best to change that.
    After experiences in the music industry that left them feeling like second-class citizens to men, each woman is using her role to change the mentality of women in the music industry, taking time out from this year's South by Southwest music, film and interactive festival to talk to CNN about the topic.
    "The largest artists right now in the music business are female," said Neuman, who is the head of music at Kickstarter. "The ones that are actually selling records -- Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Adele -- they're the ones who are really calling the shots on that side of things now, and I am sure that they still have to deal with nonsense periodically."
    In a presidential election that has featured former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as a Republican candidate, Hillary Clinton as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and a public fight between Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz about their wives, the subject of women and leadership is very much a conversational issue in current politics.
    Brode, managing director at Sacred Bones Records, told CNN her workplace is a safe space but that dealing with men in life can be difficult for her.
    "From the moment you walk out of your door as a woman, guys are looking at you on the street and judging you," Brode told CNN. "And either want to have sex with you or you're a hag. You have two options ... and that's not even within the music industry, that's just life."
    Brode said she thinks women feel a lot of pressure to be appear attractive to succeed, something she says men don't have to deal with.
    "A lot of people think that if you're a feminist, you hate men. And it's not about that at all," she said. "But it is really hard to be a woman growing up in this society when you're just constantly put on the spot."
    Vail, an executive director at CASH Music, said the first "Rolling Stone" cover that featured The Go-Go's in 1984 after they became the first female group to top the Billboard charts for six weeks was awkward because the industry didn't know how to treat them.
    "They had their No. 1 album, they were on the cover of 'Rolling Stone,'" she said. "And they're like, in their underwear, looking totally uncomfortable. You can tell that's just not part of how they viewed themselves."
    "It's like an automatic sexualization when it's a woman artist," Brode added.
    Both Clinton and Democratic contender Bernie Sanders "have clearly and passionately throughout their careers demonstrated their commitment to protecting a woman's right to choose and advocated for wage parity and equal opportunity for all," said Neuman, who supports Clinton.
    Vail, a Sanders supporter, said she believes the Republican candidates wouldn't help how women are perceived.
    "I think all of the Republican nominees have shown actual disdain for women in the primary so far," she told CNN. "It's deeply upsetting."
    A negative view of Republican front-runner Trump is climbing among women. In CNN/ORC's latest polling in mid-March, 73% of female voters said they had a negative view of Trump, with just 26% viewing him positively.
    That unfavorable number is up 14 percentage points in the last few months, from 67% in late February and 59% in December.
    Music leaders Brode, Neuman and Vail, however, said they believe there's hope for improvement in how women are treated, both within their industry and outside it. They said they believe their roles in the music industry contribute toward a shift of attitude toward women.
    "The conversation is getting louder," Vail said. "There is this community of women that are now able to feel like they have a place to speak out."