How Many Women Work Off-Broadway?

A new version of Anton Chekov's Uncle Vanya by Annie Baker at Soho Repertory Company.
A new version of Anton Chekov's Uncle Vanya by Annie Baker at Soho Repertory Company.
A new version of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya by Annie Baker at Soho Repertory Company.

The League of Professional Theatre Women has released the results of a new gender parity study regarding women employed Off-Broadway from 2010-2014.

This study, part of their initiative called Women Count, covers 355 productions from 22 theater companies. The thirteen employment categories included in this study range from playwrights, directors and stage managers to choreographers, sound designers and set designers.

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Not only does the survey include percentages of women employed; it also names women who have worked most often in this sector.

  • According to the study, women playwrights reached a high of 36% in 2012-2013 and a low of 28% in 2013-2014. Women directors working in the sector ranged from 39% in 2012-2013 to a low of 24% in 2011-2012.
  • The group concluded that one-third of the Off-Broadway set designers are women. The highest rate of employment was 36% in 2012-2013. The lowest percentage was 27% in 2010-2011.
  • Sound designers employed in the sector range from a high of 22% in 2011-2012 to a low of 14% in 2013-2014.
  • Finally, female stage managers ranged from a high of 79% in 2010-2011 to a low of 71% in 2012-2013.

You can view the study in its entirety on the Internet.

Image-via-www.newyorkcitywebdesigner.com_-600x273Martha Wade Steketee, co-author of this study, answered five questions about the report via email.

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1) Is there anything in the report that surprised you?
As a researcher and dramaturg by training, I was prepared to let the data tell the story. I was not aware before I joined Judith Binus on this project that women stage managers so dominated the profession nationally, and our study results affirm this dominance on Off-Broadway stages. And while I happy to see that some individual women are hired frequently, it is worth noting that a few women, e.g. sound designer Jill BC DuBoff, dramatically dominate the available jobs in their disciplines in recent seasons.

2) There has been a handful of organizations and groups that have raised awareness over the issue of sexism in theater since 2010. Yet, in many cases, the number of women employed by these theaters has stagnated. To get those numbers to rise, what kind of action needs to happen? What is the next step for advocates of gender parity in theater?
Organizations and individuals have been working to raise awareness about the lack of gender parity in theatre – which plays are selected, as well as who is hired on stage and behind the scenes – for many years. Our report is unique in its coverage of Off-Broadway’s past four complete seasons, and the results are mixed for women. Among 355 productions we examined, some female employment percentages rose when you compare the first and last study years (e.g. directors 26% to 38% female) and some declined (e.g. sound designers 21% to 14% female). I advise readers to look at each set of results as the percentages vary sometimes dramatically from year to year. Each professional category tells its own story.

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Our first goal with the report and the ongoing data project efforts is to make these numbers available on an ongoing basis – to keep an eye on numbers of women employed in a range of theatrical professions on stages other than Broadway.

My co-author Judith Binus began this research project with a specific advocacy strategy: to take these numbers directly to theatre companies that are the object of the study. You will notice that there are no theatre-by-theatre results in the study but rather results by season, broken out by profession. There are plans to use the theatre-specific results in conversations with the theatres involved.

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3) Has this report had any effect on LPTW’s strategy or advocacy work? Will the organization change or begin new initiatives for gender parity?
This report is being supported by the LPTW initiative Women Count, which frames a number of the organization’s internal activities. This report may lead to additional research efforts in the future. We hope that there will be regular reports from this research initiative, covering additional theatres and perhaps additional professional groups.

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4) Is there any data on the racial breakdowns of the women who are working?
We rely on names published in playbills and on line resources to determine gender of credited artistic and professional staff counted in our study. We did not add the dimensions of race and ethnicity to our detective work. At the present time we focus on gender in our data.

5) What would you tell women who are beginning their careers in theater? Any advice about dealing with gender issues in theater?
The LPTW offers support to women in all theatrical disciplines and I tell young colleagues to seek a similar supportive community. Of course we need individually to aspire to excellence and creative fulfillment, regardless of gender. In theatre as in any professional field, I say: stay true to yourself, work hard, pay attention to the activities around you, highlight inequities when you encounter them, and find your professional family.

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