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Gender Parity In Theatre

If you are an actress, you have definitely experienced the fierce competition during auditions due to the limited number of female roles. But did you know that men also outnumber women by at least 2 to 1 in the fields of Director, Playwright, Scenic Design, Lighting Design, Sound Design, Projection Design, Violence Design, and Music Direction? It's statistics like these that should empower us to act. There needs to be a collective effort to get women's voices heard and their creativity appreciated in theatre arts.

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Where do women outnumber men?

Out of the numerous areas of design and work in the theatre realm, women only outnumber men in four of these! FOUR! Those include: Stage Management, Costume Design, Props, and Dramaturgy.

This data is based on The Gender Parity Task force's research. This is just in the New England Area, imagine how these numbers transpire when applied to the entire nation.

What areas are the closest at reaching parity?

In the areas of Puppetry and Choreography we are actually close to having equal numbers of professionals! Hurrah! But there is still a lot go work to be done. Many male choreographers for example work in larger theaters, and therefore receive higher wages (This of course is in addition to the greater wages that men still receive compared to women). In fact, statistics on all areas show the same trend. Therefore it can be deduced that overall that men in theatre make more money than women.

A visual of Gender Inequality / Via

These statistics were gathered by lighting designer Porsche McGovern. The data is based upon the theatre designers in the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). The goal of the study was to look at how gender affects employment behind the stage. Her study helps us see the gender discrepancy on a more national level.

Evan Agostini / AP / Via

Lisa Kron poses with the award for best book for “Fun Home” in the press room at the 69th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 7, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP).

The 2015 Tony Awards proved to us all that some progress has been made in addressing the creative achievements of women. However, the statistics also proved to us the consistent disparity that has dominated. That year, seven women won eight of 17 Tonys in non-acting categories, the largest percentage ever for the Tony Awards. / Via

However, these women won in categories were females have been severely undermined (Best Book, Musical, Best Direction, Play, Best Original Score, etc.). "Since the beginning of the awards, less than 11 percent of Tonys for directing or writing a book for a musical have gone to women."

Wait what?

"In the United States, women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men do. Women make up half the workforce, and they are closing the gap in middle management. Half a dozen global studies, conducted by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Columbia University, have found that companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability." YET, female's career trajectory has hardly budged and it looks vastly different from their male counterparts.

So What's the Deal?


There is some validation to the fact that women's maternal instincts/ emotions impact this inequality. Also, it in inarguable that cultural and societal forces discriminate against women. BUT, what may surprise you is that there is another force at play... women's lack of confidence. In the realm of research, this is referred to as the confidence gap, "evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence". It stems from upbringing and even has some roots in biology.

Examples of this confidence gap can be found especially among female playwrights

You may not know, but this season is focused on gender parity specifically among playwrights.

One article I found online spelled out exactly what the Department is trying to expose in a critical light.

"'Most women writers are extremely perturbed by it,' (referring to the gender gap) playwright Theresa Rebeck says of the theater world's gender gap. "The discrimination has persisted longer than in other fields, and it's skewing and hurting the health of the culture." That sentiment is echoed by Marsha Norman, who says, 'At the very least, it's a bad habit. And it needs to be broken.' For all their anger, Norman and Rebeck are actually the lucky ones, having actually had shows done on Broadway."

It is suspected that women aren't aiming too low, but rather are more concerned with getting their words off the page and onto the stage. Any stage. It's not that they do not consider Broadway when writing, but rather that the tedious process of getting anything produced leaves them feeling gracious regardless of where their work ends up.

According to Norman, many of her female students from Julliard seek jobs in the TV industry, because they have done the research and know the odds are not in their favor in the theatrical realm.

Reality Check

None of this is meant to disparage men. Do men doubt themselves? Of course they do. But they don't let their doubts hinder them as much as women do. Are there not brilliant men with occupations in theatre? Of course there are! (Hello Shakespeare is probably the biggest name out there). However, this article strives to inform, to bring to light the inequality that has persisted for far too long. It is time to take a stand and recognize that talent is unique to the individual and not to a particular gender.

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