June 10, 2008

Women in Leadership Positions in the Arts in the UK

Why is it that the British papers actually analyze issues while we spend time talking in circles? In a well-researched piece, Maddy Costa of The Guardian looks into why women who are excelling in the arts fields are not making it to the top jobs. The story began when Culture Minister Margaret Hodge unleashed a scathing diatribe about the lack of women in artistic leadership positions. The Guardian talked to women in all areas of the arts and here are some of the notable quotes.

Vikki Heywood, executive director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, thinks we've reached the tipping point: on this, she's absolutely confident. "In 10 years' time," she says, "you and I won't be having this conversation."
Nadia Stern, chief executive of Rambert Dance Company, says, "Margaret Hodge is right, and it's a bit depressing that this is still newsworthy. Dance is still very male-dominated: most of the choreographers are male; most of the designers are male; when I meet my counterparts in venues around the country, they are almost always male. Given the talent that is out there, something is going on if most of the people in those positions are men."
Talk to enough successful women, and you start thinking that women are on an equal footing with men. And yet it's difficult to reconcile that with the fact that fewer than 25% of British theatres have female artistic directors, that Kathryn McDowell is the only managing director of a British orchestra (the London Symphony), or that four of the 14 senior staff at Tate are women.
The work-family balance issue gets some comments:
Polly Teale, who co-runs the theatre company Shared Experience, says that when her husband Ian Rickson was artistic director of the Royal Court, the pair felt that "we both needed a wife, in the old-fashioned sense". Joking aside, she wonders whether leadership positions need to be restructured to allow women to maintain those jobs alongside a family life.
To a degree, long hours, low pay and the work-life imbalance are not gender-specific problems. Depressingly, the problem that seems to be unique to women is their own self-doubt.
Some women think there are now other, more pressing diversity issues to be addressed. Heywood highlights the frustration felt by black and ethnic minority theatre directors, whose opportunities to work in the mainstream are few.
We could really use an analysis like this here, don't you think?
Thinking Outside the Box