In 2010, the UK Government passed the Equality Act 2010, which legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and wider society. The Act is an important legal basis to combat gender-based discrimination in England and Wales because the protected characteristics include sex, being pregnant or on maternity leave, as well as gender reassignment. As the Act also informs much of Arts Council England’s work around diversity, women in the arts will be affected by it.
When looking at official documents, the most striking feature of gender issues is its absence. Although Arts Council England’s strategic framework for 2010-2020, Great Art and Culture for Everyone, stressed the importance of diversity and inclusivity, neither women nor gender issues were explicitly mentioned in the document. The same holds true for Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, which requires all Arts Council funded organisations to show how they support and increase diversity in the arts through their work. Looking at the monitoring prompts for supported organisations in the 2018-2022 portfolio, gender is only mentioned in a footnote. A positive exception is a document entitled the National Portfolio 2018-22: Equality Analysis, which states that following a consultation with Hybrid, ACE updated its definition of diverse-led organisations to include ‘female-led’ and ‘LGBT-led’ alongside ‘disability-led’ and ‘Black and minority ethnic led’, thus recognizing the importance of including gender in diversity measures. This change is important because it opens up funding opportunities for female-led organisations.
There are also various organisations that specifically champion women in the arts and cultural industries, for example the Association of Women in the Arts. However, in order to join the Association women need to have worked in the arts for a minimum of five years, which is why it can be presumed that the organisation will only be of limited help for women in the early stages of their careers.
The Equality and diversity within the arts and cultural sector in England 2013-2016: Evidence Review brings together the results of a range of studies and reviews on the subject and looks at both production and consumption of arts and culture. Although women and girls are more likely to consume arts and culture than boys and men, the numbers of women are not reflected in the workforce, as the arts and creative industries employ a lower proportion of women than in England as a whole. This discrepancy is still evident the further up the hierarchy ones goes and at board level, with women making up 45% of boards in National Portfolio Organisationsand 40% of boards in Major Partner Museums.
The LGBT community has become more visible in the population at large, at least in cities, since the turn of the century. Gay, lesbian and transsexual entertainers, actors and media personalities are more likely to be open about their sexuality today than in the past. Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales support a number of projects including theatre productions, live art and exhibitions that provide an opportunity to break down barriers and change perceptions. Since 2005 there has been an LGBT History Month which now has more than 1,000 cultural and other events.
Both the Arts Councils in England and Wales are committed to equality policies and greater representation in their workforce and those of the organisations they support and are obliged under the Equality Act to produce and Annual Equality Report. This includes monitoring the numbers of staff and board members who are from the LBGT community (as well as from other segments of the population). Requesting this information is seen as intrusive by some in the LGBT community and, because respondents are given the opportunity to decline answering the question, it is possible that the figures may not fully reflect the numbers actually involved.