Gender Equity’s Role in Artistic Productivity and Success - Ida Anglund

All of us have likely noticed the disparity in leadership jobs in the Arts held by men vs. women.  On May 28, I attended a Zoom presentation on this subject by the League of American Orchestras, a not-for-profit organization offering programs to advance American orchestras.  This country has hundreds of orchestras but according to the New York Times: “In the U.S., women helm roughly four percent of the two dozen big-budget orchestras.”  Why is it that in 2020, fifty-plus percent of the population is still so poorly represented? 
While the League of American Orchestras’ presentation centered upon musicians and music leaders, these issues affect all of our artistic efforts as Pen Women.  Here are some reasons I believe more music and interdisciplinary presentations on this subject could help to build awareness and improve our odds.  
Recognition and support through fair compensation, grants, awards and positions of influence “at the table,” encourage more productivity.  Without such recognition and support, I feel that perhaps the largest incentive to produce is thwarted.  Our Pen Women organization provides a wonderful network in which to perfect, exhibit and appreciative each of our respective gifts, but that encouragement and appreciation alone does not help to improve our standing on the world stage.  
Many of us have expressed our concerns surrounding the difficulties of acquiring publishers, getting works exhibited, commissioned and performed, as well as those that pertain to self-publishing and promotion.  If we assume that men in the Arts have equally challenging avenues to recognition, higher paying jobs, and influential board positions, what are the reasons that gender disparity persists? How might examining the causes allow us to gain consistent, equal footing?
The League discussion involved a panel of four women: Kim Noltemy, CEO and President of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Erin Hannigan, Principal Oboe of the DSO; Sheila Williams, Board member of the Cincinnati Orchestra and author of several books; and Pratichi Shah, founder and CEO of a firm focusing on organizational development, leadership, equity and inclusion for nonprofits. The panel discussed gender representation in the orchestral field, which has made progress the last several years, although the challenge of inclusivity and equitable environments still remain.  Salary parity, promotion and tenure, and interpersonal treatment are all areas in which gender inequity continues to exist. 
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO), of which panelist Kim Noltemy is the President and CEO and first woman to hold that title, has made a point of hiring more women to artistic and administrative  leadership posts and offering them contracts that last for many years, as opposed to a few years; including more women on committees that make important decisions; and recognizing women’s accomplishments with awards.  However, according to Erin Hannigan, principal oboist of the DSO, women musicians have yet to be included on search committees for Music Director, which ranks as perhaps the highest decision-making committee on the artistic front.  The general consensus of the panel guests were that proactive actions, such as collectively pressing forward on all aforementioned fronts, still need to take place, and the two biggest obstacles to equal inclusion for women were unanimously thought to be “tradition,” and “fear,” with “tradition” being the ways in which decisions have been made for decades that include resistance to change by those in power, and “fear” being the often second-guessing, overly cautious reticence on the part of women to repeat and invent the actions necessary to really be heard and ultimately “knock down doors.” 
Twenty years ago, panelist Erin Hannigan won the coveted slot of principal oboe with the DSO, which is one of America’s top orchestras.  Principal oboe is arguably the second most important instrumentalist’s position in an orchestra with concertmaster ranking as first.  One day a female board member asked Erin to join her for lunch to discuss the fact that she noticed Erin was not present in meetings to weigh in on important artistic issues that related to the orchestra, when several male section leaders were represented at those meetings. The board member, having become a lawyer when the field of law was almost totally dominated by men, offered to help Erin become better positioned “at the table” in addition to her highly ranked artistic role as principal oboe.  Erin examined her feelings as to why she was not included and realized that she had been waiting to be asked to join the meetings.  She also recognized that she felt resentment that she had not been asked. 
With the board member’s guidance and help, Erin was able to abandon former resentments, invite herself to the meetings and widen her sphere of influence by networking and communicating more effectively.  Once at the table, Erin found that her input was met with receptivity and respect.  Looking back, Erin thinks that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s climate has become much more supportive of the inclusiveness of women in important roles and decisions, especially under the leadership of CEO Kim Noltemy, and that she, in no longer waiting to be invited, and becoming more proactive and communicative, has helped to influence positive change at the DSO for herself, as well as ease the path to inclusion for other women artists.  Not all of us have an experienced board member who has navigated the challenges of inclusion at the table to teach us what to do.  The process to better inclusion, as Erin expressed, is complicated and requires learning what to do and how to do it.  
In summary, to receive the fuel necessary to be creative and relevant in our respective fields, recognition and support that validates our abilities on equal footing with those of men are essential.   As underscored by the League’s presentation, women must 1) be proactive and not wait to be invited to a seat at the table; 2) elevate themselves and other women by actions that help to pave the way to recognition and success (in much the same way the “Old Boys Network” did); and 3) learn how to communicate more effectively and assertively.  Once women are heard, organizations progress too.
Greenwich Pen Women has hosted several wonderfully helpful speakers who have addressed specific topics such as how to manage social media more effectively and various ways of publishing one’s own books.  By including more speakers who can discuss and teach proven tools for fostering and influencing better recognition and inclusion for women in the Arts, I believe that Pen Women members will stand a better chance of receiving the recognition, remuneration and validation they deserve.
Ida Angland, Music and Letters divisions, Greenwich Pen Women branch, NLAPW


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