For the last few years, I have been lobbying for better data gathering on women in creative roles in publically-funded theatre in Scotland. In 2015 with some considerable help from a group of volunteers, I produced a report on women in theatre in 2014/15 – see below.
Subsequently I have given presentations on this work to The Federation of Scottish Theatre meeting in December 2016, HF Meeting in Lyon October 2016 and at a conference organised by Clásicas y modernas in Mérida, Spain in July 2017.
An analysis of creative roles by gender in Scottish theatre 2014/15.
In 2014/15, in Scottish publically funded theatres:
- 39% of creative roles across all categories went to women.
- 38% of theatre companies had women in artistic leadership roles.
- 4 out of 24 theatre companies were artistically led solely by women.
- Women were cast in 46% of the 811 roles.
- Women made up 47% of directors of shows.
- Women wrote 39% of the plays.
- 29% of set and costume designers and 6% of lighting designers were women.
- Women made up 11% of composers, musical directors and sound designers.
This information was gathered from 24 theatre companies and included 1698 roles.
The data gathering and analysis was carried out entirely by voluntary effort. Neither the Scottish Government nor Creative Scotland gathers this information.
On 26 September 2013 around 100 people, mainly women, came together at a meeting at the Traverse Theatre to discuss the position of women in theatre in Scotland. Those who attended included women in their 70s alongside young women who had just embarked on a career in theatre.
One of the issues – amongst many which were discussed – was the lack of data on exactly the position of women in creative roles. Where are the women? What role do they play?
This was not a new issue: while carrying out the work for Review of the Theatre Sector in Scotland (2012) it was discovered that all theatre companies claimed to have Equal Opportunities policies, but only 50% of them monitored them.
So, for two years, I and others lobbied Creative Scotland to at the very least collect data on the organisations it funds regularly – something which was done by its predecessor body, the Scottish Arts Council. But to no avail. The last detailed piece of research done in this area was a comprehensive report commissioned by Stellar Quines. This was published in 2012 and included data up to 2009.
At the end of November last year, I put out a call out on social media and via Equity for volunteers to help me gather data on creative roles in theatre for the year 2014/2015. Very quickly several came forward and volunteered to help.
This initiative has been inspired by external factors. The re-opening of Glasgow Women’s Library after a refurbishment was an inspiration. Those behind Glasgow Women’s Library have been committed to this project over many years – including a time when they received little or no funding.
I was also spurred on by the 4th year of the French publication ‘Où sont les femmes ?’ which in stark terms shows the involvement of women in key roles across performing and audio visual arts in France.
We also all witnessed the recent protests by women in Ireland at the announcement of the season for 2016 – the centenary of the Easter Rising – which includes no women writers.
Inspired by all this, and frustrated at having to make the same points again and again over the last 35 years, I thought it was probably time to stop complaining and start acting.
So here it is: an analysis of women in creative roles across theatre in Scotland in 2014/2015. Where are the women?_ 8 March 2016
This report includes an outline of what was done, the assumptions made, an analysis of the data and the conclusions for theatre in Scotland that can be drawn from this. It also outlines the position of Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government on this issue.
This report could not have been done without the time and commitment put in by the volunteers – many of whom are actors or playwrights who have little quantitative research experience but who have a stake in the place of women in theatre. It was also supported by theatre companies who responded to specific requests for data. A full list of those who collected data and supported this project in other ways is given in the Acknowledgements to this report.
However, I kicked off this initiative, shaped how it was to be done, checked and collated the data and wrote this report. I take responsibility for any flaws in the approach, errors in reporting and conclusions drawn. All comments/criticisms should be directed to me at the email address below.
8 March 2016
Thanks to Linda McLean and Blandine Pélissier for pushing me into this.
Volunteers who gathered the data
Others who provided information, support and advice
CALL TO ACTION
Women in Theatre: data gathering
For the past two years I have been involved in attempts to lobby Creative Scotland (CS) regarding their data gathering on gender. While carrying out the work for the Review of Theatre in Scotland in 2012, we discovered that data gathering on equal opportunities across the organisations CS funds had not been carried out. Indeed while all regularly funded organisations claimed to have an equal opportunities policy, only 50% admitted to monitoring this. We raised this issue at the time and CS agreed that this had to be addressed.
Since then there has been a change of leadership in CS, and various meetings/discussions have taken place on this issue. There was also a gathering of 100 (mainly) women in September 2013 at the Traverse to discuss the whole issue of gender representation and I and others agreed to continue to lobby for better information to be available.
CS has put in place a process for gathering information for 2014/2015 and this will form the basis of discussions it has with individual organisations. However, in their attempt to ensure ‘one size fits all’ the information being sought is only on boards and on employees. This ensures the same information is being sought from all regularly funded organisations regardless of artform or size. However, as the arts is an industry which works on freelance contracts – particularly in the area of the creative talent- this gives only a very partial picture.
This proposal is about gender only. The gathering of data holds the same problems for other ‘protected characteristics’ – ethnicity, sexuality, disability etc. The strategies to address issues in these areas may differ but without proper data there is no way of knowing the extent of the problem- assuming there is one. However gender is the only area where we are not looking at a minority.
What is the problem to which we are seeking a solution?
The lack of good quality data is hampering any attempt to raise issues and create change in arts organisations in receipt of the lion’s share of public money. The approach taken by CS means that there is no information available on the gender for those in freelance creative roles. This includes, for example, freelance directors, writers, designers, musical directors, choreographers and, of course, performers.
What has to be done?
I am proposing to do what CS is failing to do and to collect and publish data on the gender balance within roles in theatre. I have outlined below the scope and methods which I am proposing should be employed to rectify this, and how this work could be carried out. All of this is up for discussion.
The first and most pressing reason is that CS is just failing to do what is required. As we face up to a very difficult budget round, it is likely that the focus will be on the impact of funding cuts and yet again the issue of women in creative roles will be put to one side as everyone concentrates on the funding questions. As ever, this will be seen as a problem to be addressed once all others have been sorted.
The last detailed piece of research done in this area was a comprehensive report commissioned by Stellar Quines.[i] This was published in 2012 and included data up to 2009.
This initiative has been inspired by other external factors. The re-opening of Glasgow Women’s Library after a refurbishment was an inspiration. Those behind GWL have been committed to this project over many years – including a time when they received little or no funding. [ii]
This coincided with the 4th year of the French publication ‘Où sont les femmes?’ which in stark terms shows the involvement of women in key roles across performing and audio visual arts in France. [iii]
We also all witnessed the recent protests by women in Ireland at the announcement of the season for 2016- the centenary of the Easter Rising- which includes no women writers. [iv]
Inspired by all this, and, to be honest, thoroughly fed up of making the same points over the last 35 years, I thought it was probably time to stop complaining and start acting.
Organisations: I am proposing that we focus only on theatre. While it would be great to include music, dance, literature and visual arts as well as film and TV, the size of the task is enormous and in my view it would be too difficult to achieve without institutional support from CS.
Types of organisations: Those in receipt of the bulk of CS funding in 2014/2015: Foundation, Annual, Programme plus NTS and A Play A Pie and A Pint – see attached list.
Programme: At this stage I am proposing to include only shows produced by the organisation itself i.e. not visiting work. This covers work produced in Scotland. By implication this means that I am excluding festivals but open to discussion on this.
Co-productions: I suggest that these are counted as a separate category. Once the data have been gathered, a decision can be made about how to present.
Time frame: This is tricky. Ideally we would want research as relevant and recent as possible but the clearest way of doing this is to cover by financial years- which means it can be replicated and compared across years – as the French work does. I propose to focus on 2014/2015.
Essentially this is a counting exercise identifying women and men included in a theatre production – see attached pro-forma.
Roles: Propose to include – artistic director, director of production, playwright (living or dead), translator, designer, musical director, choreographer. These are the same categories used in the French study. It has been suggested that we also include assistant directors and lighting designers. I have also included performers. Partly because this is in line with method used in the last piece of work by Stellar Quines. It is also because this is of importance to Equity. This information will need to be contextualised: it would be wrong to suggest that all plays should be 50:50 – makes nonsense of Black Watch or Guid Sisters. It is also true that women playwrights do not always write parts for women – and that might be interesting to analyse.
Source(s) of information: It should be possible to gather most of the data from websites and, where appropriate, programmes. Equity and FST might also be able to assist.
Data gathering by crowd sourcing A post on Facebook by me just over a week ago, attracted some volunteer support. There are wider networks and contacts which I can access once there is clarity. Both FST and Stellar Quines have also offered support.
The proposal is that a group of volunteers are identified who agree that they will gather information on specific theatres. They will submit their findings in an agreed format and this is then pulled together for publication- which I am prepared to do.
- Identify volunteers- 18 December
- Collect data- 31 January
- Publish data – 28 February
The cheapest and easiest way of doing this is online and I am happy to look at creating a website or just attach to my website. We should also look to getting some media coverage.
It would also be great to get a hard copy published (as per French) but for that I need both money and also a good designer willing to work on this to create the best possible layout (and that costs too).
Please get back to me with your views on this proposal and if you are happy to be involved. Please indicate which organisation(s) you would be happy to look at.
Theatres on the list
Note: I have a full list of productions by each of these organisations- except for ones indicated*. Some will present problems eg Arches but most are pretty straightforward.
Eden Court Theatre*
Macrobert Arts Centre*
Mischef le Bas*
Royal Lyceum Theatre
Scottish Youth Theatre
Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Birds of Paradise
A Play A Pie and A Pint
Proposed pro-forma for data gathering
|Women in Theatre 2014/2015|
|Name of theatre|
|Total Number of Productions|
|List of productions included in total||Male||Female|
|Notes: Where the same person carries out two different role – for example director and designer – count that as two- either male or female|
|Where two people have collaborated in the same role on a project then count as two indicating whether male or female.|