This year, the International Women’s Day campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter: A balanced world is a better world. The IWD website prompts the question, ‘how can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?’
Celebrate women’s achievement.
Raise awareness against bias.
Take action for equality.
Claire Hodgson, Co-Artistic Director of Diverse City, shares her thoughts today.
I asked my daughter Scarlett what she wanted the world to be like when she is 21 in 2030. She said she wanted the world to be ‘more even (equal) and with lots of nature and animals’. Tackling Climate change and achieving full representation of women at every level are what I want to work towards for my daughter. The lack of diverse voices at leadership level across our society is linked to the abyss we are staring into. If only the privileged run the show, we miss the lived experience and perspective that would solve many of the problems we face.
Christine Lagarde said this week that countries could increase their economies by 35% if they took advantage of women’s skills. A recent World Bank report stated there are six countries in the world where women have an equal legal footing with men – and Britain is not on that list. Full representation of BAME individuals across the labour market would be worth £24bn a year to the UK economy, according to a government backed review. Research has established that boards that have an even gender split result in stronger more successful companies, (further reading available in McKinsey Quarterly Report 2012). In Diverse City since we fully diversified our board to resemble the population in terms of gender, ethnicity and disability, we have quadrupled our turnover.
I sit in meetings often where, when quotas are discussed both men and women respond with two points: ‘it’s about the best person for the job’ or a common assertion that ‘the arts is full of women’. It is, but they don’t hold a half share of the most powerful positions. Talent is evenly distributed across the population so the workplace should look like the population. We need to do something different.
I have been a feminist since I wrote a letter to my headmaster complaining that girls weren’t allowed in the football team at 9. Feminism is common sense as it releases the potential of half of the population. It would also unleash a different world. Patriarchy is the only system we have lived under. Feminism this time will only be successful if it is a fully intersectional vision that includes all women: women of colour, LGBT women, trans women, disabled women, older women and working-class women. I long for different voices to be in powerful positions.
I long for us to think closely about who invented the rules of the workplace and who they serve. We don’t need to replicate them in the arts. Recent twitter discussions about the cost of childcare to enable someone to work 10-6pm in an office, showed that many arts jobs salaries would put people in a deficit position. ‘Well people can work part time’ I hear you say. They can but there are very few leadership positions in the arts held by part time workers and wages are so low in the arts many people could not afford to. The reality is that many people are freelancing who could be leaders of organisations.
Diverse City is committed to making sure that our work represents the population as it exists. We do have quotas we are working towards. Whilst we have made significant achievements around disability and gender, we have a long way to go around ethnicity.
One of our quotas is 51% female creatives on any show. We hope others will join in. At present it doesn’t cause a stir when a major musical developed by a subsidised company is based on a book by a man, is written and scored by a man and directed by a man. It should create a stir. We could make different choices when creating the teams who will tell stories on our stages.
Today I feel deep gratitude to the women I have learned from, been mentored by and work alongside each day. I want my daughter to be able to achieve her potential throughout her lifetime in a safe world. I want this for all girls. She wants to be a vet (but I am sure there could be a show about that).