What We Did
“Unsurprisingly we learnt that there is a clear difference between the percentage of women being commissioned to write for the mid scale/larger stages in comparison to men.”
KATHY BOURNE, ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
Jenny Roberts (on behalf of CFT) interviewed playwrights and literary and artistic associates from within the industry. All were asked a series of open ended questions. The answers were collated and a report written based on the findings.
What We Learned
Unsurprisingly we learnt that there is a clear difference between the percentage of women being commissioned to write for the mid scale/larger stages in comparison to men.
Reasons for this differed from venue to venue. However, there seemed to be a consensus on the following:
When women are approached about a commission, there appears to be a trend in proactively approaching young, new women writers rather than focusing on mid-career women writers. If women writers haven’t managed to get their work produced by a certain point in their career, then it is much less likely that they will go on to have a successful career, particularly on the bigger stages.
Venues don’t always offer the best support for women writers, who are less likely than men to request help and guidance from the venue and literary departments. The overall experience can prove to be quite negative and venues don’t therefore always get the best out of their women writers.
Men tend to promote their work with more confidence and come across as more convincing with their arguments as to why venues should programme their work.
In choosing what to write about, men choose subject matter which traditionally has been considered more suitable for the larger stages.
At a particular point in their career, women often have to turn their attention to childcare. For a period of time, work is of secondary importance, either through choice or necessity.
Historically, more plays by men than by women have been produced and when programming and commissioning, venues look for a successful track record in a playwright. Hence, more men are likely to be approached than women.
What We’re Doing in Response to What We Learned
CFT has made a commitment to commission more women writers, over the next five years. However, in order to address the gender imbalance in terms of the size of venue presenting plays by women writers, CFT intends to share information with other venues about who they are working with and which women writers appear to have potential.
In addition, CFT will take full advantage of the excellent relationships it has with literary agents who have a pool of female writers wanting to work at producing houses such as CFT.
Without a literary department, CFT has not always had the time to focus on gender balance when it comes to finding writers to commission. However, the appointment of a new Creative Producer will help enable us to engage writers with whom CFT currently has little or no relationship. Part of the Creative Producer’s role will be actively to encourage female writers to pitch ideas to CFT. It is also her responsibility to see more work by women writers which is already being produced elsewhere.
Is This Work a Step Towards a Bigger Goal?
Whilst we have chosen to focus on women playwrights, CFT intends to try and address the current gender imbalance across the creative industry. As an organisation, we have already made some progress by questioning the make up of each creative team and have created opportunities for women within each team, where possible.
CFT is keen to work closely with other venues to ensure that there is a pooling of knowledge in relation to women creative personnel. There needs to be a collective responsibility for changing a current trend where men still monopolise the key creative positions.