The 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards nominations were announced on February 26, and the academy was quick to point out that all the nominees for Single of the Year are by women. So I guess we should pay no attention to the fact that female representation in Entertainer of the Year actually went down: from one nominee in 2020 (Carrie Underwood, who tied for the win with Thomas Rhett) back down to zero. This year’s contenders are Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Rhett again, and Chris Stapleton.
The ACM Awards have given out their Entertainer of the Year prize 50 times to date. Only 11 times has the winner been a woman. Underwood actually did it three times; she prevailed in 2009 and 2010 in addition to her victory in 2020. She’s joined on that short list by Loretta Lynn (1975), Dolly Parton (1978), Barbara Mandrell (1981), Reba McEntire (1995), Shania Twain (2000), The Chicks (2001) and Taylor Swift (2011-2012).
Underwood and Swift are the only women who have ever prevailed more than once. And it’s probably no coincidence that their dominant period was during the eight years when Entertainer of the Year was decided by fans. It seems that music listeners are more appreciative of women than their industry peers are.
You can’t win Entertainer of the Year if you’re not even nominated. In the last 10 years women have accounted for just 9 out of 50 nominations in the top category (18%). It’s even worse when you narrow it down to just the last five years, when women earned 2 out of the 25 Entertainer of the Year slots (8%) — both of those times the female nominee was Underwood.
And it’s not just Entertainer of the Year. This year female artists are represented in just one of the five nominees for Duo of the Year (Maddie and Tae) and one of the five nominees for Album of the Year (Ashley McBryde), though women are included among most of the nominees for Group of the Year, Song of the Year, Video of the Year and Music Event of the Year. So there is noteworthy progress across the board. It’s just a shame women in country music apparently still aren’t entertaining.