Erika Ender will host this year’s extraordinary 2020 Leading Ladies of Entertainment ceremony, set to take place virtually on Nov. 17. The event will honor Selena Gomez, Gloria “Goyo” Martínez of ChocQuibTown, journalist Maria Elena Salinas and entertainment attorney Angela N. Martinez.
During the special event, the Latin Recording Academy will recognize the aforementioned leading ladies for their “significant contributions, inspiring the next generation of female leaders,” according to a press release.
Ender, who co-wrote the global smash hit “Despacito” alongside Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, was honored back in 2017 as a leading lady. “These types of events are important because we need to recognize how far women in the industry have come,” says the Panamanian singer-songwriter. “Thank God for these women who are making a difference and stepping so firmly. We need to continue to empower and applaud each other so other women can get inspired.”
Ahead of the Leading Ladies virtual ceremony, Ender spoke to Billboard about the state of women in the industry, and obstacles she’s had to overcome as a songwriter.
In a year that I think is safe to say has be a really tough one for all of us, you get to host a very special ceremony. What are you most looking forward about this event?
I think that just the fact of recognizing the value of these amazing women is incredible. I think that the more we get together as a genre, the more we can achieve. I don’t say this to sound like I’m against men, because I do think that if we all get together, men included, we can really make a difference. I always say that I’m a feminist, but I’m not less feminine because of that. I owe a lot of my career to men who have recorded my songs, produced my songs. But we still are a minority in this industry, and a lot of industries.
Why are these types of recognitions important and what did it mean to you to named a leading lady in 2017?
One of the most amazing things about the industry is when your own colleagues honor you. You expect your audience to love your work, because they’re your fans — but for your colleagues to show you admiration, that’s really great. Admiring someone that does the same thing you do, that’s having humility, and I’m very grateful for that.
What’s the best way to help other women in the music industry?
Getting together. That’s the best thing we can do. And really holding hands, in order to raise our voice a little more. To show we can make a difference, to show all of our capabilities — which are a lot — to show that we’re so versatile and good at what we do. But for example, in my case, being a songwriter, it’s been very difficult. At the beginning, I sensed a lack of vision from men and from the industry itself. I used to send songs with my name on them, and the response was that my songs were beautiful, but sounded “too female.” They’d say that it sounded like a song that needs to be sang by a woman, and that theirs was a male project.
How did you take that?
I tried not to take it as discrimination, and I’d tell them, “No, I made this for a man.” To show them, I would call a male friend of mine to sing those demos, and I would send it back but this time as E. Ender, not Erika Ender. And it would go through. I think we have to show results, we have to show that we’re good. I had to do that three or four times early on in my career.
Do you think we’re closer to a point where women don’t have to constantly prove ourselves — not only in the music industry, but other industries too?
I think we’re working towards that — but it’s taking us forever. Previous generations used to see us as the moms or the housekeepers. And we can still be the housekeepers, but also dare to follow our dreams and make them come true too. There is no industry where we’re not able to do something. We just have to follow our heart, develop our skills and show results. And work closely with men, so they don’t see us as a threat but as a collaborator, and the results will benefit everyone. That’s the formula and that’s what I’ve done in my career.