Nettles received the award in honor of her ongoing advocacy for women and diverse voices in the music industry. Prior to her acceptance speech, fellow country stars including Maren Morris, Sheryl Crowe and Kelsea Ballerini expressed how much Nettles' work means to them.
After the touching tribute videos aired, Nettles accepted the award with thanks to her fans, team and fellow country stars.
"Thank you to all the fans. And especially to my artists, my sisters out there who continue to burn the holy fire," she said. "I am so proud to be a part of this legacy of women in country music with you and I am so proud of the stories we tell. We have more to do as soon as we can and I can't wait to do it all alongside you, holding your hands."
Nettles drew attention last year when she wore a Christian Siriano pantsuit look, which read "Equal Play" to the 2019 CMA Awards. Nettles wore the bold look to encourage radio stations to play female artists more.
"When I heard that the CMA's were gonna be celebrating women this year, I thought what a fantastic opportunity, an invitation to take the conversation beyond the applause," Nettles told ET at the event. "To take it beyond this night of celebration and to send a message to the rest of the industry that says women are supremely underrepresented, and people want to hear our music and our records played on country radio and on country playlists just as equally."