Gender equality between women and men is still far from being achieved in the Swiss cultural sector

Press release, Diversity and equality
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Women are significantly under-represented in the Swiss cultural sector in many disciplines. This is true for management and artistic leadership positions as well as for the visibility of women on stage and in exhibitions. These are the findings of a preliminary study by the Center for Gender Studies at Basel University published today. The study presents new statistics for gender relations in the disciplines of performing arts, music, literature and visual arts. There are major differences between the disciplines, and the greatest need for action is in music and the visual arts.

The Swiss Federal Council’s cultural policy statement (Kulturbotschaft 2021–2024) formulates the national goal of equal opportunities for women and men in the cultural sector. To date, however, there has been no systematic data collection for gender relations in the various disciplines of the cultural sector. A preliminary study published today now unambiguously reveals the trends. The study was commissioned by Pro Helvetia and the Swiss Center for Social Research and conducted by the Center for Gender Studies at Basel University. The results are based on investigative sampling in the disciplines of performing arts (dance and theatre), music, literature and visual arts.

The findings illustrate an urgent need for action:

  • Women are under-represented in leadership positions. This is the case for strategic and operational management at cultural institutions and organisations, as well as in professional, industry and producer associations. For example, women hold 42 percent of operational management positions at the cultural institutions and organisations that were examined. By contrast, only 34.5 percent of directors and deputy directors are women. It is important to mention here that significant differences were found between the disciplines: while women hold 55 percent of executive roles in the literature discipline, not a single woman was found in an executive position at the music institutions investigated.
  • Women are also clearly in the minority when it comes to artistic leadership positions and the creative production of artistic work. Only 31 percent of theatre productions examined by the study were directed by women, while a scant 7 percent of concerts had women conductors. Only 15 percent of stage productions performed were written by women playwrights, while just 2 percent of classical music performed was composed by women composers.
  • Women have lower visibility than men in live performances in concert venues and theatres, on reading tours and at exhibitions, although the scale of under-representation depends on the discipline: the visibility of women is in the 40 to 50 percent range in performing arts and literature, while women make up only around one third of group exhibitions in visual arts. For solo exhibitions this drops to 26 percent. Women have disproportionately few opportunities to perform in the music discipline. They make up just 34 percent of performers in classical music concerts, and their ratio drops sharply for rock/pop and jazz live performances to only 9 to 12 percent of the performers.

«The findings show that there is still an enormous amount to be done to achieve equal opportunities for women and men in the cultural sector. Now we need further research in order to shape and implement targeted long-term measures. This preliminary study has had to rely on sampling to collect data. In line with the intention of the Federal Council’s cultural policy statement (Kulturbotschaft 2021–2024), we will now work together with the Swiss Federal Office of Culture to determine the steps necessary.»

Seraina Rohrer, Head of Innovation & Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

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