Reba McEntire has hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards 10 times already, but that won't make it any less exciting when she takes the stage on Sunday.
"Once the curtain opens and it's time to perform, that's when it really becomes fun and interesting and that's why I keep coming back and doing it year after year," McEntire, 54, tells PEOPLE.
The country star, who's also nominated this year for her collaboration with Brooks & Dunn, "Cowgirls Don't Cry," has had a front-row seat as country music has evolved over the years to become a worldwide phenomenon.
"It's changed drastically," she says. "Now we have almost pop country. I'm very proud of country music in the state it's in right now."
That's not to say that things are any easier for such recent country superstars as Taylor Swift
or Carrie Underwood
"No matter when you are introduced to the music business, whether it was Loretta Lynn's era, my era or Taylor Swift's era, it's going to be hard," says McEntire. "I think it always will be hard for women. That's just the way it is in any kind of workplace. A woman has to work harder to get where she wants to be."
But those extra hurdles can also lead to the most entertaining performances, says McEntire, who is also performing on Sunday's show. "I like to see what the girls are going to do," she says. "The guys … they get up there and they sing. It's just that way, and the girls put on a better show."
Among those expected to take the stage at Sunday's ACMs, which air at 8 p.m. on CBS, include Lady Antebellum, Miley Cyrus
, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw
, Heidi Newfield, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland and Taylor Swift.