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Achieving Equity in Canadian Theatre: A Report with Best Practice Recommendations

November 28, 201828 November 2018

Women in the arts

Equity in Theatre


Michelle MacArthur

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Based on interviews with theatre professionals, secondary data collected from theatre organizations, international data from equity studies, as well as academic and newspaper articles, this report provides a “picture of (in)equity in Canadian theatre” and a “series of recommendations to increase the representation of women and other minoritized groups”.

Despite comprising most theatre school graduates and audience members, women’s representation in key creative roles in theatre is below 35%.  In fact, a major finding of the report is that the roughly 70% male / 30% female division among artistic directors, directors, and playwrights has remained unchanged for the last 30 years. This 70 / 30 split is also consistent with data from Australia, the UK and the US.

While women account for 50% of the membership of the Playwright’s Guild of Canada, they accounted for only 22% of produced playwrights in 2013/2014.

Using data from the 2011 National Household Survey, the author found that women earn less than men in major artistic roles:

  • As actors and comedians, women earned 26% less than men.
  • As authors and writers, women earned 12% less than men.
  • As producers, directors, choreographers, and other related roles, women earned 16% less than men.

The author found that “increasing women’s representation in one area will have a positive effect on the others”. In particular, there appears to be a link between women artistic directors and women directors, as well as between women playwrights and roles for women actors.

The author notes that “there is a significant need for research on how these roles break down in terms of other marginalized groups, including people of colour, Aboriginal people, immigrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ, who are likely marginalized further”.

The report contains 38 recommendations of ways to redress the representation gap in the theatre sector. Examples follow from each of the four areas identified by the author:

  • Education: “Increase the percentage of plays by women and other marginalized groups taught and performed at elementary schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutions”.
  • Mentorship and networking: “Offer management development and mentorship programs to train women to become artistic directors and courses to foster leadership and negotiation skills”.
  • Administration: “Set organizational targets to achieve and enforce parity”.
  • Advocacy and awareness: “Create awards for theatre companies that meet equity targets”.

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