LAS VEGAS (AP) – Like Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire has won entertainer of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, but she says it’s harder for women to get the top trophies in this industry.

“It’s always been that way,” said McEntire, who won entertainer of the year for 1994 and hosted Sunday’s show for the 11th time.

“Women just have to work harder to stay in the running with the guys,” McEntire said before the show. “It’s always been that way and the women always overachieve, in my opinion.”

McEntire said she was proud of Underwood, a former “American Idol” champ, who won entertainer of the year this year; it’s the ACM’s highest honor.

Only six female acts had won the award in the show’s 39 years, most recently the Dixie Chicks for 2000. The other women winners include McEntire and Loretta Lynn (1975), Dolly Parton (1977), Barbara Mandrell (1980) and Shania Twain (1999).

“You’ll watch women – their shows – they’re more theatrical. They change clothes, they’re putting on the best show they possibly can,” McEntire said.

When asked why that hadn’t translated into more top awards for women in country music, McEntire said: “I wish I knew.”

Kellie Pickler, a former “American Idol” contestant who planned to return to the show Wednesday to perform a single she co-wrote with Taylor Swift, said the difficulties for women in the industry is evident in the country charts.

“You can look at the charts and tell, there’s usually not but three women in the top 20 in the charts,” said Pickler. “Yeah, it is challenging but I think we’re slowly but surely getting there.”

Country stars were split on Sunday about whether they supported fan voting at the ACM Awards as organizers expanded on the practice they began last year with entertainer of the year.

Kenny Chesney promptly took issue with the process organizers used to give out the award after he won the trophy last year. Chesney said he preferred the traditional method of ACM members, mostly industry insiders deciding the awards.

This year, top new artist was also decided by fans. They voted from three categories: top new male and female vocalists, and top new duo or vocal group. Fans picked on the winners from each category, then gave Julianne Hough the award for top new artist over Jake Owen and the Zac Brown band.

Though he didn’t win, Owen said he appreciated the award more because fans voted for its winner.

“This is what a lot of people aren’t getting, man, is that without (fans), we’re nothing,” Owen told the AP. “Without them buying a record, we aren’t standing on this carpet as so-called stars. We’re just another guy singing a song.”

John Michael Montgomery, who won two ACM awards in 1993 and two more in 1994, said he favors the idea of fans getting involved but not in giving them sole power over certain awards.

“There’s so much dilution in (fan voting) and there’s not as much control over that,” said Montgomery, 44. “I think that’s probably where you’re going to face some discrepancies. I know that a lot of times they feel the fan base is manipulated a lot more.”

Eric Church, whose “Carolina” is Billboard’s No. 4 country album, was trying to juggle commitments and figure out how to get from Reno, Nev., to Detroit on Monday in time to watch the NCAA championship basketball game between Michigan State and North Carolina.

“I’m scheming hard to get there,” Church said. “I gotta get ahold of Chesney’s plane, I think, to do it.”

Church said he was invited to the game by Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who offered box seats to the self-professed Tar Heels fanatic.

Church said he rooted for Michigan State over Connecticut in their semifinal on Saturday because he believed the Spartans would be the easiest opponents for North Carolina.

North Carolina beat Michigan State by 35 points in the same building Dec. 3.

“You want to play that team if you can,” Church said.

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