||As we move forward, we need to ensure the female artists who rise to the top of the industry represent a range of women; if they all come from the same background or have similar characteristics, there will still be much further to go.
Gender doesn’t function alone. It intersects with a whole range of other characteristics in a person such as age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability plus elements of their personal circumstances such as financial status, socio-economic background, and geographical location. Because of this, every person needs to be seen as a unique combination of characteristics and circumstances, any of which may combine to impact on the way in which he or she interacts with the theatre industry; it’s far more nuanced than simply saying “women are like this”, or “men are like that”.
||If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always had.
There are some really ingrained things in how we in our industry think, work, and make decisions, most of which have been handed down to us from a time when women weren’t anticipated to be equal in the workforce, let alone having their voices and ideas amplified on the public stage. Consequently, many of the barriers to women today are a result of these now outmoded structures. While we don’t need to tear the whole thing down and start again, if we’re going to make changes so we can have a better, more effective and equitable way for our industry to function, we will need to be self-reflective, analytical, and not settle for saying “but we’ve always done it like this”.
||If left to occur naturally change will happen, but is likely to be unacceptably slow.
This will lose us yet further generations of talented artists. Proactively creating change will require work, time, thought, effort and, in some cases, money. But the results will justify the outlay, if not exceed them. Only when it becomes a core part of what an organisation unquestioningly does as part of its minimum standards – like balancing its production budgets, or ensuring its performance spaces are accessible – will greater gender equality happen.
||Existing imbalances aren’t purely down to women leaving to have babies.
Parenthood is a significant factor, but it’s not the only reason women are less visible at senior creative level in the industry. There’s a myriad of factors to do with work-place environments, behaviour, how we perceive art and artists, and who it is we trust enough to make work on the biggest, most visible stages.
||Having a diversity of decision-makers in an organisation is just as crucial as having a diversity of artists.
It is perhaps human nature that all of us will feel drawn towards working with certain people, and that when we make decisions about who to employ, a certain amount of cultural bias will be at play: often we will instinctively select people we feel on a similar wavelength to, or with whom we have things in common. But it’s for this very reason that theatres need a diversity of people in creative decision-making roles; people with different tastes, backgrounds and perspectives, whether that’s on a Board or in a script-reading team. Otherwise, it is less likely certain artists will be championed, or have that all-important chance taken on them when they’re starting out or trying to reach the next rung of the career ladder.
||We need to look at where power lies and target our efforts there.
It may be that part of the solution is in designating additional resources and support for individual female artists. But before that happens, it is crucial that the gatekeepers of opportunity, and those who hold the majority of power in the industry – organisations and leaders – reflect on their role in either inhibiting or promoting equality on their stages. All-female playwriting groups are good, but if no theatres will put on plays written by those women because they have an unfounded fear that their work won’t sell tickets, little meaningful progress will actually be made.
||When an organisation tries to create change, there will always be both opportunities and hurdles, regardless of its size.
Small organisations can often create internal change far quicker than large ones, yet large organisations generally have resources and clout that smaller ones lack.
||Sometimes imposing quotas or aiming for 50:50 targets isn’t the right way to go…
||… but sometimes imposing quotas or aiming for 50:50 targets is the only way to go.
||Equality is not the antithesis of quality.
Saying you have to employ “the best person for the job” doesn’t work unless you’re really scrutinising what you mean by “best” (and checking it doesn’t just mean who’s most visible, who happens to fit a certain traditional mould, or who is like you!)