The folks over at ProductionPro, a technology company aimed at digitally assisting theatrical and film productions, compiled some statistics regarding this past season on Broadway. While some of the stats were encouraging, such as realizing that the average ticket isn't as pricey as some would assume, others were downright depressing. Especially when it came to the employment of women.
As opening nights were being announced this year, I started to have reservations about this season. More and more shows featured male heavy casts, both principal and in the ensemble. Shows like "The Band's Visit", "Angels in America" and "Spongebob Squarepants" featured almost all-male principal roles. Yes, there are shows like "Three Tall Women" but there's only three. So I was a bit fearful of what the statistical outcomes would look like, and ProductionPro confirmed all those fears. We definitely recommend taking a look at their animated survey.
According to statistics compiled from the Internet Broadway Database, Playbill Vault, Theatrical Index, and Various Show Websites, ProductionPro found that out of 233 principal roles, only 37% were female. In the creative departments such as directors, choreographers, and writers, women were scarce. When it came to Broadway productions only 19% of directors, 18% of choreographers and 16% of writers, were women.
In the design categories, women only dominate in one area, makeup(67%). Costume design is almost an even split(Women 54%, Men 46%). But men grossly outnumber women is every other area such as Set(80%), Lighting(81%), Sound(96%) and Hair(62%).
There was some encouragement in the crew areas. For instance, the survey found that of all Stage Managers on Broadway shows, 53% of them are women. 65% of them work in Wardrobe and 71% populate Hair and Makeup. But once again, there are striking differences in certain categories such as Musical Direction where only 40% of women populate that position. Only 4% of women work as electricians, 11% in sound and zero as carpenters, yes zero.
While a few of the statistics might sound encouraging, when you take into account the employment study that Actor's Equity did last year, you'd find that Broadway took a step backward in 2017-18.
While the AEA study took a look at both Broadway and National tours from 2013-15, this past Broadway season displays many areas trending downwards. AEA found that during that period, women populated 41.3% of principal roles and 65.9% of stage management jobs.
What the study didn't show is the average salary between the genders in these positions. Chances are, not much has changed there either.
However, there is "some" encouragement on the horizon. With the way that 2018-19 is shaping up, women will have a stronger presence on stage. Shows like "The Prom" and "The Cher Show" have a 50/50 split when it comes to women and men in the principal and ensemble roles. Even a show like "Straight White Men" is written by a woman, Young Jean Lee(the first Asian female playwright on Broadway btw) and directed by a woman, Anna Shapiro. And the musical, "Head Over Heels" is going to be groundbreaker for gender-fluidity on Broadway as well.
But what is the solution to closing some of these gaps? In the past, I would have said that articles like these and studies like what ProductionPro did, can help raise awareness to Broadway's employers. But many have been saying that for years and nothing has changed. So it's time for something radical. Organizations like AEA, IATSE, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Dramatists Guild, United Scenic Artists need to work with The Broadway League and producers in creating hiring programs for various positions within the industry that require diversity in its ranks. While some may be opposed to diversity "quotas" or "token interviews", when there is a disparity issue, like the one in the Broadway community, sometimes they need to be introduced to force change. I'm not the only one who believes this either.
Jim Joseph, a consultant in arts administration, member of The Broadway League’s Diversity Council, and theatre manager at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, said during his TedX talk that, “With the majority of the gatekeepers on Broadway white, there is a natural disposition to select ‘white stories. It’s not a blanket statement, but we know theatre owners give priority to producers they feel have a track record of producing successful shows—that’s their prerogative. Producers tend to work with the same creators, who they have had success with in the past. That makes it really hard for new creators to get into the room where it happens.”
Mr. Joseph even suggested that Broadway looks at the NFL's Rooney Rule, where teams must interview coaches of color for various jobs. I think a plan like that makes perfect sense.
If the powers-that-be in the Broadway industry could solve this problem on their own, forcing their hand wouldn't have to happen. But it's very clear, especially in 2018, it does.