Pyramid or Pillars
Women in Cultural Policies

Culture Gates



One of the most dynamic sectors of the labour market is the culture industries.  Studies have shown that this sector has been expanding at a rate near to or beyond the overall growth of some national or regional economies and it is expected that employment rates will double in the next ten years.

The fields which make up this sector, including everything from visual or performing arts to multimedia production, have been heralded as ones which can secure sustainable employment, reinforce endogenous regional potentials and shape the future through high levels of creativity and innovation via a market in which the majority of goods and services are non-substitutable.

One of the reasons for its exponential growth over the last 20 years has been explained by the increase of women working in various professional fields. Recent transnational empirical studies have indicated, however, that their representation in various occupations and at different stages of cultural production can range from below 10% (e.g. in some of the music professions) to over 60% in fields, which are today deemed "feminised".

Such studies have also shown that there is a diminishing share of women towards the top of administrative and artistic hierarchies of decision-making across Europe. For example: in the field of music, female conductors are rare exceptions; women represent on average 23% of theatre directors, 20% of film directors, 25% of art museum directors and 15% of senior broadcasting production executives. These findings are contradicted by the consistently higher percentage of female graduates in art academies and conservatories across Europe.

Access to such positions, including those with creative influence, must pass through a number of gate-keepers which have the power to maintain glass ceilings over 1) women's career development in their respective hierarchies and/or 2) the degree of "success" or public recognition which they receive for their work and consequently economic rewards of the marketplace.

There are several layers of decision-making processes and various actors involved in the system of gate-keeping. They include those with:

  • economic or political power such as CEO's of broadcasting companies, directors of national opera houses or museums, heads of city cultural departments.  
  • symbolic power over content production and can control the gates which prevent or release a diversity of ideas, information and styles. These gatekeepers include editors in chief of newspapers, art critics or jurors on arts funding boards, programme directors.

These different "power positions" remain in the hands of men and therefore we are still a long way from achieving equality of presence and influence in determining quality. 


Transnational Investigation  

The European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts) has carried out a transnational research project in co-operation with Finn-EKVIT (Helsinki), MEDIACULT (Vienna) and the Observatorio das Actividades Culturais (Portugal) to investigate the gate-keeping systems in the cultural labour markets and the impact that gate-keepers have on the career development of women working in the arts and media professions after they leave school.

Three national investigations were pursued in 2002-2003 under a common methodological framework, which investigate gate-keeping from several perspectives and place a special focus on two very different artistic labour market fields:

a)     Music: a field which consistently demonstrates that women are still more marginalised than in any other sector of the culture labour market and that the gate-keeping system (which includes production and distribution channels). The music sector is indeed male dominated both in terms of creativity (composition) and performance (orchestras) which clearly maintains stereotyped images which are difficult to overcome even with existing policy strategies or active mainstreaming and other programme measures.

b)    New media arts: a relatively new field which has shown some signs of progress toward reducing the gender gap. As there are no "mainstreaming" or other policy measures in place to encourage gender equality in the media arts field, it could prove to be an innovative case from which good practices can be drawn.


Advisors and Evaluators

Several recognised professionals in both sector specific fields of music and new media as well as recognised scientists of cultural labour markets and gender studies advised and evaluated the project.

They included: Patricia Adkins Chiti, Fondazione Donne in Musica, Annette Brinkman and Franz-Otto Hofecker, Zentrum fur Kulturforschung; Monika Fleischmann, Media Arts Research, GMD - Research Center for Information Technology; Sibylle Thomzick, rocksie!; Ilkka Heiskanen, University of Helsinki;  Alfred Smudits, Institute for Music Sociology, University for Music and Performing Arts, Sonja van der Valk, Theatre Instituut Nederland. 

Published: 2003-05-07
  Updated: 2003-06-28

Copyright © 2003 CultureGates. All Rights Reserved.

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