Women Stage the World - New York

Women’s Employment in the Arts


Women are creating some of the most exciting and challenging art in the United States today. And yet, despite great strides in other fields and a few high-visibility success stories, women continue to face enormous employment discrimination in the arts and media.

WomenArts is dedicated to educating the public about the continuing problems of gender bias in the arts. Not only do women suffer by being shut out, but the culture as a whole is poorer when it is deprived of the vision and creativity of women artists.

We have listed some helpful studies and links to other organizations working in these areas below.

Women’s Employment in Theatre

7 Steps to Achieving Gender Parity by Martha Richards

7 Steps to Achieving Gender Parity
Womenarts organized an international summit on gender parity in Toronto in April 2015 in collaboration with New York’s Women in the Arts and Media Coalition and Canada’s Equity in Theatre.  In this article for American Theatre, WomenArts Executive Director Martha Richards reports on the summit and the seven strategies for gender parity that were discussed.  Read more>>

Achieving Gender Parity: The 100 Women Plan by Martha Richards

Achieving Gender Parity: The 100 Women Plan
In this article for Howlround, WomenArts Executive Director Martha Richards asks what would happen if the gender parity movement could provide 100 women with $100,000 each to work full-time on increasing opportunities for women in theatre.  She argues that if we want our movement to succeed, we need to find ways to fund it adequately.  Read more>>

Women’s Leadership in Resident Theatres

Women’s Leadership in Resident Theatres – Wellesley Centers for Women
In 2013, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) partnered with the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) to conduct a study on the gender equity of leadership opportunities in the nonprofit American theater.

Preliminary findings showed that some of the main barriers to women achieving leadership positions in theater are: hiring committees have a lack of familiarity and trust with women candidates; undiscussed work-life balance issues for women with children; and lack of mentoring and apprenticeships for women.  Read more>>

Achieving Equity in Canadian Theatre by Dr. Michelle MacArthur

Achieving Equity in Canadian Theatre: A Report with Best Practice Recommendations
Although women form the majority of theatre school graduates, support workers, and audience
members, when it comes to key creative roles in Canadian theatre, their numbers diminish
substantially, dropping below 35%. For example, women form 50% of Playwrights Guild of
Canada’s membership, but they do not account for even one quarter of the nation’s produced
playwrights (the numbers for women of colour are lower yet), and rates of representation are
regressing rather than improving over time (PGC, “Theatre”).

This report responds to the enduring and urgent question of women’s absence from Canadian
stages by investigating what Rina Fraticelli, over 30 years ago, termed “the Invisibility Factor”—
that is, “the absence of women from significant roles in the work of producing a national culture.” Following-up on previous landmark studies, including Fraticelli’s 1982 report and Rebecca Burton’s 2006 study, this report presents an updated picture of (in)equity in Canadian theatre, makes international comparisons, and outlines a series of recommendations to increase the representation of women and other minoritized groups. Read more>>

NOTE: The Equity in Theatre website has links to more studies of Canadian women in theatre>>

Los Angeles Female Playwright’s Initiative (LA F.P.I.)

L.A. Female Playwrights Initiative Survey & Study
The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative conducted a study of plays produced in Los Angeles between 2000 and 2009 and found that only 20% were written by women, even though local playwrights associations report that 45% of their members are women. Also, no women playwrights were nominated for Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle or LA Weekly Awards for their work in 2010. Read more>>

Chicago Storefront Summit: Gender Equity Report
Chicago Storefront Summit: Gender Equity Report
The Chicago Storefront Summit issued a report indicating that only 18.8% of plays produced in Chicago in 2009 were written by one woman or a group of women. Even if plays were included that had at least one woman contributor in a group of male and female writers, women were only represented in 30% of the plays produced. 70% of the plays had no women writers involved. Read more>>

Counting Actors: Monthly Tallies of Women in Bay Area Theatre Productions  by Valerie Weak
Bay Area Actor: Counting Actors
Since June 2011, Valerie Weak, an actor, teacher, and advocate for women in theatre, has been producing reports on the gender breakdowns of shows in the San Francisco Bay Area. The information is gathered from her own observations and from reports submitted by other theatre people in the Bay Area. For each show, she tracks the gender of the writer and director, total number of actors, gender of actors, numbers of union and non-union actors, numbers of local and non-local actors, and numbers of male and female union actors.  If you would like to help gather data, it is quick and easy with the Counting Actors Submission Form.

Not Even: A Study of Gender Parity in Bay Area Theatres by Valerie Weak in collaboration with Martha Richards & Christine Young
The Not Even Report on Bay Area Theatres 2011-2014
NOT EVEN:  A Gender Analysis of 500 San Francisco/Bay Area Theatrical Productions 2011-2014 from The Counting Actors Project, written by Valerie Weak in collaboration with Martha Richards, Executive Director of WomenArts, and Christine Young, Associate Professor, University of San Francisco, was released at the WomenArts’ Support Women Artists Now Day/SWAN Day Bay Area celebration on March 28, 2015.  Read more>>

Women Count: Women Hired Off-Broadway 2010-2015 by Martha Wade Steketee and Judith Binus
Women Count Report on Off-Broadway Theatres 2010-2015
The League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW), as part of a larger initiative called Women Count, has issued findings from its second annual analysis of the status of women employed in New York City theatres off-stage and outside the Broadway district.  This report looks at a broad range of professional roles with a deep focus on the hiring patterns of productions in a set of non-Broadway theatres for five consecutive seasons.  The study analyzes employment in 13 professional roles (including playwrights, directors, and designers) in 455 Off- and Off-Off-Broadway productions in 22 theatre companies for five complete seasons, 2010-2011 through 2014-2015.  Read more>>

Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender by Emily Glassberg Sands
Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender: An Integrated Economic Analysis of Discrimination in American Theater
In June 2009, Emily Glassberg Sands, who was a senior at Princeton at the time, released her report, “Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender” and the NY Times covered it. The Times claimed that Sands had proven that women artistic directors were to blame for the discrimination against women playwrights (ignoring the fact that women do not constitute the majority of artistic directors). The methodology of this study has been controversial. Read more>>

Laura Pels Keynote Address by Theresa Rebeck
Text of Theresa Rebeck’s speech
This is the text of a speech by Theresa Rebeck, a very successful playwright, TV writer and novelist, where she talks about how her career has been hampered because she is a woman and the abysmal number of plays produced by women. Read more>>

Not There Yet – What Will It Take to Achieve Equality for Women in Theatre?
Not There Yet – What Will It Take to Achieve Equality for Women in Theatre?
This is an excellent article from 2009 by playwright Marsha Norman. She talks about coming of age as a woman playwright in the 1970s, and she tries to analyze the reasons that American theatres continue to ignore female playwrights. Read more>>

NY Theatre.com – Now Playing: Plays by Women
Now Playing: Plays by Women
NYTheatre.com maintains a page that lists plays written by women that are currently being produced in New York City. At the bottom of the page is a real-time tally of the plays currently being produced in New York that indicates the gender of the playwrights. Read more>>

50/50 in 2020

50/50 in 2020 Facebook Page
50/50 in 2020 is a group of New York City theatre artists advocating for equal representation in season selection by 2020. Using their Facebook fanpage, 50/50 in 2020 is coordinating meet-ups of audiences to attend plays written by women as a way of showing producers that plays written by women have strong box office appeal.
Read more>>

NYSCA Study on Women in Theatre
New York State Council on the Arts Theatre Program Report on the Status of Women: A Limited Engagement?
By Susan Jonas & Suzanne Bennett
The New York State Council on the Arts Theatre Program conducted a survey of the 2,000 plays being presented in the U.S. in 2001-2002, and found that only 17% had women writers and only 16% had women directors. Read More>>

Guerrilla Girls on Tour
The Girlcott & Good News page lists theatres to avoid because they will not be producing a single play by women on their main stage spaces during 2011-12, and theatres to support because they are producing 50% or more plays by women on their main stages. guerrillagirlsontour.com/monkey-business/girlcott-good-news/

Women’s Employment in Film & Television

Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., a professor at San Diego State University, has established the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film which does annual studies on women’s employment in film and televison. We have provided links to some of her studies below. Links to all of the center’s research studies are available at:

The Celluloid Ceiling
The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind the Scenes Employment of Women in the Top 250 Films of 2012.
By Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., San Diego State University
In 2012, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents no change from 2011 and an increase of 1 percentage point from 1998.

Women accounted for 9% of directors, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2011 but even with the percentage of women directors working in 1998.

Boxed In
Boxed In: Employment of Behind the Scenes and On-Screen Women in the 2011-2012 Prime-Time Television Season.
By Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., San Diego State University
Women comprised 26% of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography on broadcast television programs during the 2011-12 prime-time season. This represents an increase of one percentage point from last season (2010-2011) and an increase of 5 percentage points since 1997-98.

Changes of note over the last year include increases in the percentages of women creators (from 18% in 2010-11 to 26% in 2011-12) and executive producers (from 22% to 25%).  After a dramatic decline in the 2010-11 season, the percentage of women writers rebounded to 30% in 2011-12.  However, the percentage of women editors declined from 20% in 2010-11 to 13% in 2011-12.

Women At the Box Office (Ticket Sales of Films By & About Women)
Women At the Box Office
By Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., San Diego State University
This study examines the belief that films made by women or featuring female protagonists earn less at the box office than those made by men or featuring males. The major findings of the study include the following:

  • When women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting domestic, international, and opening weekend box office grosses – as well as DVD sales – are also similar. The sex of filmmakers does not determine box office grosses.
  • When the size of the budget is held constant, films with female protagonists or prominent females in an ensemble cast generate similar box office grosses (domestic, international, opening weekend) and DVD sales as films with male protagonists. Films with larger budgets earn larger grosses, regardless of the sex of the protagonist.

Thumbs Down Report: The Representation of Women Film Critics in the Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers
Thumbs Down Report
By Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., San Diego State University
Men write the overwhelming majority of film reviews in the nation’s top newspapers. In Fall 2007, men penned 70% and women 30% of all reviews. Furthermore, of the newspapers featuring film reviews, 47% had no reviews written by women critics, writers or freelancers. In contrast, only 12% had no reviews written by men critics, writers or freelancers. In addition, men wrote significantly more reviews than women. Men wrote an average of 14 film reviews whereas women wrote an average of 9 film reviews during the study period.

The findings of this report suggest that film criticism in this country’s newspapers is largely a male enterprise, echoing the predominance of men working on screen and behind the scenes in the film industry. In short, men dominate the reviewing process of films primarily made by men featuring mostly males intended for a largely male audience. The under-employment of women film reviewers, actors, and filmmakers perpetuates the nearly seamless dialogue among men in U.S. cinema.

Gender in Film Crews Report
Stephen Follows has compiled a report on the employment of women in film crews over the past twenty years.  Comparing the statistics for the 100 top-grossing films each year, he found that the average percentage of women (22.6%) has not changed in twenty years.  Of the top 100 films in 2013 under 2% of directors were women and only one of the films had a female composer.

New York Women in Film and Television
The “Status of Women in the Industry” section of the site includes an excellent assortment of studies and articles.

Movies Directed by Women
Information on historical women directors, statistics on women directors, and Director interviews. You can also sign up here to be placed on the First Weekender’s Group mailing list and hear about films by women that are about to open. Supporting a film on its first weekend shows that films by women can have box-office clout.

Girls, Women + Media Project
Activist site with summaries of studies of bias in news media and coverage of women’s sports, as well as studies of imagery of women in film and television.

Geena Davis Institute on Gender & Media
The Institute’s work is based on the largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children’s entertainment. Dr. Stacy Smith and her team at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication carried out 4 downloadable studies, including one on children’s television and three on film.

Women’s Employment in Classical Music

Kristina Kohler, Women’s Philharmonic Executive Director
The quote below is from an interview in the August 7, 2003 issue of NYFA Current with Kristina Kohler, Executive Director of the now defunct Women’s Philharmonic.

The last sentence of the interview is no longer accurate, but it’s not far off. Marin Alsop became the first woman conductor of a major symphony in 2007 when she took the podium at the Baltimore Symphony (overcoming serious resistance from the male musicians).

“The American Symphony Orchestra League 2002/03 Repertoire Report shows that fewer than 1% of works programmed in the 2002/03 season represent works by women. Of the 484 composers programmed in the 2002/03 season by 104 significant League member orchestras, only 5% were women. Of the 104 world premieres listed in the report, only 10% represent works by women composers.

Commissioning of works by women composers has begun to pick up for some composers (i.e. Jennifer Higdon, Chen Yi, Augusta Read Thomas). However, women on the whole still lag far behind: Of the 85 total organizations applying on behalf of a composer to Meet the Composer’s (MTC) commissioning grants in 2002, only 19% represented a woman composer. Of the 17 awarded Meet the Composer grants, 24% (4) went to a woman composer. Of the 44 winners of the Broadcast Music, Inc. Student Composer Awards for Classical Music over the past five years (1998-2002), again, only 5% (or two) have been women.

There are no women conductors/music directors employed by the largest 25 North American symphonies (according to budget size of orchestra), and women represent only 11% of all conducting positions in the nation.”

International Alliance for Women in Music
Organization that celebrates women in music, with activist campaigns to increase women’s employment, mostly in classical music.

Women’s Employment in Dance
Dance Theatre Workshop notes that based on Apollinaire Scherr’s November 4, 2001 New York Times article “Making a Career With One Eye on a Gender Gap”: In 1976 Wendy Perron and Stephanie Woodard found that while women constituted the majority of choreographers, dancers administrators, teachers and students, men received a larger proportion of prizes and opportunities and that a quarter century later, these findings are still true. In 2000, of 18 modern-dance choreographers who received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, 13 were men. The men received a total of $200,000, with a typical grant of $10,000; the women received a total of $45,000, with a typical grant of $5,000.”

Women’s Employment in Publishing and the News Media
Vida – Women In Literary Arts
In 2010, VIDA: Women In Literary Arts took on the task of counting the rates of publication between women and men in many of the writing world’s most respected literary outlets. They made some very attractive pie charts to illustrate some very disturbing numbers. Their statistics have drawn a lot of attention to the challenges faced by women writers. Their 2011 figures show almost no change from the 2010 ones.

The Times is not a-changin’
A study by Paula Caplan and Mary Ann Palko proves what we’ve always suspected: women’s voices are woefully underrepresented in the pages of the New York Times Book Review , the most powerful publication in the world of book publishing. In 53 weeks of the NYTBR in 2002-03, out of 807 books reviewed, only 28% were authored by women. Of the 775 reviews, only 34% were by women reviewers. Read the report, including excerpts of correspondence with the Book Review editors, on the site of the Women’s Review of Books.

The Glass Ceiling in the Executive Suite:
The 3rd Annual Annenberg Public Policy Center Analysis of Women Leaders in Communication Companies shows that women still comprise just 15% of executive leaders and just 12% of board members in top communications companies – numbers virtually unchanged from the previous year.