Despite theater industry pledges to improve its track record on diversity and inclusion in hiring, the follow-through has fallen “far short” of the promises, says a new report by Actors’ Equity Association.
The actors and stage managers union says in its third annual Diversity and Inclusion Hiring Bias Report that statistics for the year 2020 indicate that the percentage of contracts going to members of color increased only marginally from the 2016-2019 period, rising from 21.5% to 24.8%. The union’s members of color nationally earned an average of 91.8% of what white members made per week.
“We are disappointed by the realities of the data: while there was some incremental progress here and there in 2020, the theatre fell far short of fulfilling its promises of diverse and inclusive hiring,” said Kate Shindle, president of Equity, in a statement. “Equity has made it a top priority to combat inequality in the industry, but we cannot do this work alone. We call on everyone who makes hiring and pay decisions in the theatre to demonstrate their commitment through their actions as well as their words.”
Shindle acknowledged the unusual circumstances brought by 2020.
“2020 was obviously an outlier year; our industry was among the hardest hit by COVID, and work weeks were nowhere close to the norm,” she said. “But 2020 was also the year in which theatrical leaders across the country loudly and collectively promised to do better, so we felt it was important to continue our work tracking hiring bias.”
Among the other key findings in the report:
- Stage manager jobs continue to go most often to white workers, and stark pay gaps persist along both racial and gender lines;
- While men and women tend to find employment in roughly equal numbers nationwide, men tended to earn more than women for the same amount of work, and more still than non-binary members;
- Members who are disabled, transgender or over 65 tend to earn less than the industry average.
Read the full report here.
Bliss Griffin, Equity’s diversity and inclusion strategist, said the union has been tracking the hiring data since 2013 and sees “only marginal improvement.”
“The stakes for this industry are higher than ever,” Griffin said, “but the response to this crisis remains far too slow.”
The single-year study follows two previous, multi-year Equity reports that surveyed the years 2013-2015 and 2016-2019. The union, which represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, wrote in a summary release announcing the results, “While 2020 was a year of historically low theatre employment, there is still data accounting for thousands of union actor and stage manager jobs. Upon examining this data, Equity staff found that, once more, there are gaps nationwide in the theatre industry when it comes to both job opportunity and pay. While these reports have demonstrated modest improvements year over year, they have continued to be slow and inconsistent.”
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