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Diversity and equality in the cultural sector

Theater Chur | Photography and montage: Nadia Lanfranchi & Nina Oppliger


Lisa Pedicino


Media enquiries

Swiss society is diverse. Often, however, this marked diversity is not sufficiently reflected in the country’s cultural sector. There are reasons: not everyone has the same opportunities to gain a footing in the cultural scene. For women, senior management positions in cultural institutions remain difficult to attain, and on average they earn 17% less than their male counterparts. Cultural practitioners from migrant communities rarely find a position at cultural institutions, and they are also clearly underrepresented in artistic programmes and among artists who are awarded grants. This is problematic given that 38% of Switzerland’s population have a migration background.

Numerous cultural institutions lack the resources, methods and know-how to meet the challenges of today’s diverse society. As a result, the necessary long-term structural adjustments are not made and the potential that diversity offers goes unused.

Pro Helvetia has reacted to these key social and cultural policy issues by launching activities around the topic of «Diversity and equality in the cultural sector». The activities intend to drive discussions in the cultural sector and to lay the foundations for broader access to the Swiss cultural scene by means of fact-finding and promotional measures.

Targets 2021-2024:

  • Support cultural institutions and provide them with active guidance in the development of diversity-oriented processes.
  • Reduce barriers for cultural practitioners from marginalised population groups to the Swiss cultural sector and to opportunities for grants.
  • Promote knowledge transfer in the areas of diversity and equality and provide practice-oriented guidelines for cultural institutions.
  • Collect and disseminate data and facts on diversity in the Swiss cultural sector.

Facts and figures are based on the statistics of the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on the cultural economy in Switzerland, which the FSO has compiled in accordance with the Federal Office of Culture (FOC).

Click here for a definition of terms


Lisa Pedicino


Media enquiries

In connection with its «Diversity and equality in the cultural sector» focus, Pro Helvetia is launching two calls for applications:

  1. Starter workshop «Start Diversity»
  2. Long-term support «Diversity Tandem»

The application information provides details on the conditions for applying and the deadlines.

The infographic shows the opportunities and deadlines regarding an application for «Start Diversity» and «Diversity Tandem».


Diversity as it is understood here focuses on the acknowledgment of commonalities that people share and the differences between them. Another term that could be used in this context is heterogeneity. Historically grown differentiation within a society has led to social inequality based on attributes such as origin, gender, age, language, social position, life orientation, sexual orientation, religious or political convictions, worldview, as well as physical, mental or psychological disabilities (see also Art. 8 of the Swiss Federal Constitution).

Diversity processes

Diversity processes are long-term approaches to changes within institutions and organisations in the area of diversity. The aim of a diversity process is to achieve a structural dismantling of discrimination and of the barriers resulting from such discrimination. In the cultural sector, the focus is normally on long-term diversification in the area of the «three Ps»:

  • personnel (who is working in the cultural sector?),
  • programmes (what is being offered, who is being supported?) and
  • public (which sectors of the public have access to the content on offer?)


Equality signifies equal opportunities for sharing and participating in cultural, political, economic and social life, irrespective of gender, origin and other social differences. Egalitarian access means that all have the same opportunities at the start and all have an equal chance to grasp these opportunities. Efforts to achieve such equality therefore focus on the structural dismantling of discrimination and barriers.


Marginalisation means excluding or ignoring individuals or groups of people, or pushing them to the outer rims of society. Such marginalisation is always accompanied by forms of discrimination and usually occurs on several of the following levels at once: geographic, economic, social and cultural. In the cultural sector, marginalisation may mean poorer access to grants or to positions of influence.


In the context of the diversity discourse, communities are understood to be interest groups of people sharing similar experiences of discrimination. Such a community is also characterised by a positive group identity, since people become members on a voluntary rather than involuntary basis. Often there are several smaller subcommunities under one umbrella community. The queer (or LGBTQ+) community is a case in point.

Migration society

The term refers to processes of cultural, social and political changes in a society as a result of immigration. Such change is understood to be a process that makes a positive contribution to the shaping of society. According to the Federal Statistical Office (2019), nearly 38% of Switzerland’s residential population have a migration background, clearly marking Switzerland out as a migration country.

Gender equality

Gender equality stands for equal opportunities for sharing and participating in cultural, political, economic and social life for all genders and gender identities. Such equality presupposes that disadvantages and barriers due to socially formed role patterns are acknowledged and combated (e.g. by eliminating gender pay gaps or by setting quotas for representative positions). Gender equality also means that differences in life planning, behavioural patterns and the needs of the various genders are taken into consideration and supported.

Some of these definitions are based on the dictionary of the Berlin project office Diversity Arts Culture. For more information and further definitions.

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