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The status of women in the Canadian arts and cultural industries: research review

November 28, 201828 November 2018

Women in the arts

Ontario Arts Council


Amanda Coles, Kate MacNeill, Jordan Beth Vincent, Caitlin Vincent with Philippe Barré

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This review identifies more than 250 reports, articles, and documents from Ontario and the rest of Canada containing data pertaining to women in six sectors of the arts and cultural industries: visual arts, dance, theatre, literature, music, and media arts/screen. A key finding of the report is that only sector-by-sector information is currently available; no existing research was found on the status of women in the arts and cultural industries as a whole.

The authors found that the overall gender composition of the arts and cultural industries in Ontario is equal: 52% of artists and 51% of cultural workers are female. However, through an analysis of the gender breakdown of nine occupational groupings from the 2011 National Household Survey, the authors found that:

  • Only one occupational grouping is gender equal: musicians and singers are 50% female and 50% male
  • Four groupings are “gender balanced” (i.e., about 40% / 60% gender distribution)
    • Visual arts (54% female, 46% male)
    • Other performers (53% female, 47% male)
    • Authors and writers (54% female, 46% male)
    • Actors and comedians (46% female, 54% male)
  • Four groupings are gender imbalanced
    • Artisans and craftpersons (61% female, 39% male)
    • Dancers (86% female, 14% male)
    • Producers, directors, and choreographers (67% male, 33% female)
    • Conductors, composers and arrangers (65% male, 35% female)

Even in sectors that were numerically gender balanced or equal, the authors found that there are often significant gendered differences in areas like income, leadership roles, and career and industry recognition: “Across all sectors, women’s artistic and creative outputs receive significantly less public exposure than those of men. The systemic and relative (in)visibility of women’s artistic works indicates that women, as a group, experience gender-based disadvantage in the arts and cultural industries overall”.

The authors point out that gender inequality across arts sectors is not due to women obtaining less training or education than men: “A cross sectoral analysis of available data on education and training clearly shows that across all six sectors, women are as highly educated as men”.

The authors call for more research in the arts and cultural industries, both in terms of all facets of women’s diversity (i.e., intersectional research) as well as analysis that goes beyond the gender binary: the authors “acknowledge that gender is not a binary, although this is the predominant framing in the existing research data. Our use of the terms ‘female/male’ and ‘woman/man’ includes all individuals who identify as such”.

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