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A report by Dr. Deborah Dean Industrial Relations Research Unit Warwick Business School UK. Gender Agenda : Women, Men, Age and Employment in the Performing Arts . Survey of Performers in Europe . A unique snapshot of aspects of the working realities of European performers

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a report by dr deborah dean industrial relations research unit warwick business school uk
A report by

Dr. Deborah Dean

Industrial Relations Research Unit

Warwick Business School


Gender Agenda: Women, Men, Age and Employment in the Performing Arts

survey of performers in europe
Survey of Performers in Europe

A unique snapshot of aspects of the working realities of European performers

Central focus on gender and age

Performers’ social identities and their perceptions of how they relate to employment in the television, film and live performance sectors

acting is a gender integrated occupation
Acting is a gender-integrated occupation…

unlike most jobs in society. However -

Thomas (1995) Work opportunities: a woman performer’s decline as she ages, but a man’s increase as he ages.

Dean (2004/05/07): Employers do look for talent, however often look for it in the ‘right’ package + Different ranges of acceptability of ageing and appearance for men and women.

Danish Actors’ Association (2007) found gendered pay disparities and opportunities for work.

And others

scope of the project
Scope of the project

Members of EuroFIA unions in 28 European countries asked to complete online survey

2174 respondents

Gender: women 54%, men 46%

Age response rates in descending percentage size:

20-29, 41-50, 30-35, 51-60, 36-40, 61-70,

71-80+, Under 20

country responses grouped by region
Country responses grouped by region

Scandinavia and Baltic States 618 (29%)

Benelux Countries 134 (6%)

Central European States 77 (4%)

Southern European 98 (5%)

Western European 173 (8%)

United Kingdom and Ireland 1056 (49.0%)

findings not answers
Findings not Answers

This survey presents us with a snapshot of working realities and what performers think about their opportunities for employment.

Statistics are signposts, not proof. The survey findings do not give us answers, but help us ask the right questions and focus on what the affected people think needs changing or investigating further.

the survey
The survey
  • Background information
  • Going for jobs
  • Working patterns and income
  • Employment opportunity
  • Age
  • Social identities
  • Caring responsibilities
  • How do you see yourself represented?
  • What would improve employment opportunities for you? (questions drawing on previous research)
gender of respondents by age
Gender of respondents by age

20-29: men 33% women 67%

30-35: men 39% women 61%

36-40: men 47% women 14%

41-50: men 49% women 50%

51-60: men 60% women 40%

61-70: men 58% women 42%

71-80+: men 71% women 29%

This indicates men have longer careers than women

income by gender
Income by gender

MEN No income 5% (same as women); Under £6,000 (€7,499) 24% (14%less than women); £6,000 - £11,999 (€7,500-15,499) 22% (1% more than women); £12,000 - £19,999 (€15,500-25,999) 16% (same as women); £20,000 - £29,000 (€26,000-37,999) 16% (4% more than women); £30,000 - £39,000 (€38,000-50,999) 8% (3% more than women); £40,000 - £49,000 (€51,000-63,999) 3% (1% more than women); £50,000 - £59,000 (€64,000-74,999) 2% (1.3% more than women); Over £60,000 (€75,000) 4% (3.6% more than women)

WOMEN No income 5% (same as men); Under £6,000 (€7,499) 38% (14%more than men); £6,000 - £11,999 (€7,500-15,499) 21% (1% less than men); £12,000 - £19,999 (€15,500-25,999) 16% (same as men); £20,000 - £29,000 (€26,000-37,999) 12% (4% less than men); £30,000 - £39,000 (€38,000-50,999) 5% (3% less than men); £40,000 - £49,000 (€51,000-63,999) 2% (1% less than men); £50,000 - £59,000 (€64,000-74,999) 0.7% (1.3% less than men); Over £60,000 (€75,000) 0.4% (3.6% less than men)


In all of the European regions apart from SB, the largest percentage of performers is either in the ‘Under £6,000 (€7,499)’ income category or the ‘£6,000-£11,999 (€7,500-15,499)’ category. In SB, the largest percentage of performers is in the ‘£20,000-£29,000 (€26,000-37,999)’ income category.


No income and lower income categories think that employers and professional experience are the most powerful factors in whether or not they work (as opposed to gender, age, talent).

Once you start earning, you believe that ‘talent’ is most important in employment opportunity.

opportunity in employment gender age
Opportunity in employment: Gender, Age
  • Most men thought that their gender gave them opportunities in employment (49%) and even more thought that age did (52%)
  • Perception of lack of employment opportunity as because of gender: women 57%; men 6%
  • Perception of lack of employment opportunity as because of age: women 56%; men 28%
Most disadvantageous category for getting work [ Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Parental/Caring Responsibilities]

Women: Most disadvantageous: gender 37%; Second most disadvantageous: age 30%

Men: Most disadvantageous: age 47%; Second most disadvantageous: gender 4%

All minority ethnic groups saw Ethnicity as Most disadvantageous category. However, minority ethnic women performers saw gender and age as much more disadvantageous than minority ethnic men performers.


The ranking for ‘Most Disadvantageous’ factor in access to employment is the same across Europe – first Age, then Gender, then Ethnicity. However, the percentage of performers in CE, SE and WE that thought gender was most disadvantageous was noticeably lower than for SB, B, and UKI.

  • Also – go to B to be performer parent!
role content age effects
Role content – age effects?

Q: As you have aged, has the content of roles offered in film, TV, theatre and radio become More Interesting (MI) Less Interesting (LI) or No Effect (NE)?

All the MI percentages in each sector are greater for men and smaller for women.

All the LI percentages are greater for women and smaller for men.

All NE responses are smaller for women than men apart from Radio, which is the same for both women and men.

women performers gender is disadvantageous to them along every dimension
Women performers: gender is disadvantageous to them along every dimension

In contrast, men performers see their gender either clearly as an advantage (most dimensions) or else as not either an advantage or disadvantage.


  • NUMBER OF ROLES: Advantage 74%, Disadvantage 5%, Neither 21%; VARIETY OF ROLES: A 70%, D 7%, N 23%; PAY: A 26%, D 9%, N 65%; AGEING: A 50%, D 15% , N 35%; PARENTING: A 17% D 15% N 68%; TYPE (most often cast as): A 33%, D 16%, N 50%; EMPLOYER PERCEPTIONS OF MEN: A 25% D 14% N 62%


NUMBER OF ROLES: Advantage 6%, Disadvantage 79%, Neither 15%; VARIETY OF ROLES: A 9%, D 73%, N 18%; PAY: A 3% D 49%, N 48%; AGEING: A 11%, D 68%, N 21%; PARENTING: A 4%, D 56%, N 41% ; TYPE (most often cast as): A 15%, D 49%, N 37%; EMPLOYER PERCEPTIONS OF WOMEN: A 6%, D 52%, N 43%

q what disadvantages do you have as a minority ethnic performer
Q: What disadvantages do you have as a minority ethnic performer?

Strongest perceptions of disadvantage from African-Caribbean performers:

NUMBER OF ROLES: Advantage 0% , Disadvantage 100%


TYPE (most often cast as): A 10%, D 84%,


Closer results for White/ Caucasian and Black and Minority Ethnic women than W/C and BME men. There are some large differences between women by ethnic group; however these differences are generally smaller than between men by ethnic group – suggesting both additive and intersectional disadvantage for BME women performers.

gender regularly represented in a realistically varied way
Gender regularly represented in a realistically varied way?

Film: MEN Yes 77%, No 24%; WOMEN Yes 37%, No 63%

TV: MEN Y 74%, N 26%; WOMEN Y 40%, N 60%

Theatre: MEN Y 85%, N 15%; WOMEN Y 57%, N 43%

Radio: MEN Y 81%, N 19%; WOMEN Y 58%, N 42%

Commercials: MEN Y 61%, N 39%; WOMEN Y 29%, N 71%

age regularly represented in a realistically varied way
Age regularly represented in a realistically varied way?

Film: MEN Yes 68%, No 32%; WOMEN Yes 40%, No 60%

TV: MEN Y 66%, N 34%; WOMEN Y 40%, N 60%

Theatre: MEN Y 75%, N 25%; WOMEN Y 51%, N 49%

Radio: MEN Y 74%, N 26%; WOMEN Y 54%, N 46%

Commercials: MEN Y 58%, N 42%  WOMEN Y 32%, N 68


‘Gatekeepers’ – such as agents, directors, producers, casting directors, television executives

What influences decisions about access to work (who gets what job)

Connections with survey findings - how and why do the statistics exist and persist?


I do not believe that actresses above 40 years start having problems for work.

Belgian casting director, Male


For women appearance is more important than for men because of the viewing numbers. For instance we are working on a new soap, a telenovela in which the main part is a beautiful young woman. So it has to be that. Beautiful. For men it’s less important.

Belgian TV casting director, Female


Type-casting is the rule in the business, looks come first. Talent and experience will help, but will not get you the job. This doesn’t mean that you need to be good looking; you just need to look the part… Men can have more character, women almost every time need to be good looking. Luckily there are exceptions.

Belgian casting director, Male


I had selected a young Moroccan-Belgian actress in the institute that works to promote young actors that have just entered the business... The director [of the institute] said to me

“But why did you choose the Moroccan – do you need some exoticism?”

On another occasion, the same director told me that, as far as the girls were concerned, their selection criteria came down to cup size.

Belgian theatre writer/director, Female

q what would make a difference to access to work for performers especially regarding age
Q: What would make a difference to access to work for performers, especially regarding age?

Attitude. Not from within [television] but from the public. People are taking more notice because of the ‘ageism’ legislation, but it takes a while for changes to settle and become part of the ‘norm.’

British casting director, Female

Women need to speak up loud and to support each other.

Norwegian artistic director, Female


Women are busiest and have more varied roles between age 20 and 35. After that they're usually "the mother" (in films and TV). Men continue to get varied role opportunities all their professional life. Caucasians are more likely to get role opportunities in Norway. Caucasian males are most likely to get leading role opportunities. Norwegian agent, Female

what is to be done
What is to be done?

Many performers across different European regions saw casting as a very closed world with few genuinely ‘open’ auditions

Many people wanted greater public investment in the arts or suggested tax cuts to stimulate film production

Great emphasis on wider, societal perceptions of women in general and older women in particular

q what would improve your employment opportunities
Q: What would improve your employment opportunities?

‘A representation of women that is not centered on youth. Real, older, fatter, thinner..all women ..beautiful or otherwise ought to be represented in their wholeness...the big girl getting the man or the lead role.. the older woman being sensual and the focus of men's desire... I once read a casting brief that stipulated ( with reference to the women)' No dogs please'. To me that says it all.’


Many women wrote about a need to lose weight and become ‘more attractive’.

‘Force them to employ more women and minorities so that the audience get used to seeing reality and not a fake world with only young beautiful people.’


We often only see one Black or ethnic minority family in a soap- and rarely families of mixed races living together..if we go onto our streets this is the reality…but this is never seen or reflected in the arts. As a black actress and very dark skinned I feel completely under represented, colour blind casting is something we need to move forward to. As a co-op member and speaking to other black actresses a lot of them feel held back due to the colour and tone of their skin. I often feel that if i was a few shades lighter my screen career would be much stronger…and as an actor and not say a producer etc I feel completely unable to do anything about it apart from not to give up.

q what would improve your employment opportunities1
Q: What would improve your employment opportunities?

There should be an ethnic media watchdog to monitor stereotypical portrayals or lack of portrayals and provide hard statistics otherwise we will always be in a talking shop and subject to the lip service of well meaning but institutionally or commercially racist gate keepers.


The fact that society would find elderly women more interesting.

More female roles, more middle-aged roles, more female directors, more female authors and more awareness on the schools on this subject

If good looks didn't mean so much in casting - and the age-thing that I am starting to notice. I still look young but if they know how old I am it is a different story


Better representation of older women and not automatically casting a man in the functional roles, i.e. a reporter, a teacher etc. It always seems that a role which is non gender-specific always goes to a man and reinforces a perception that women only matter in relation to how they relate to men or the family, but particularly men in a sexual context.


An increase in the number of roles for women over 35. I am a working actress, but only because I now work mainly in voiceovers - and vocally I still play teens and early twenties.

More roles for women (not just whores and mothers) in general, and for my future; for middle-aged and older women.

q what would improve your employment opportunities2
Q: What would improve your employment opportunities?

‘Miraculous removal of age stereotyping for women. I am a grandmother, but I don't wear cardigans and carpet slippers - and I still have sex!!!!’

previous research
Previous research

Previous picture showed that men and women performers operate within the same ‘rules’ in relation to age and appearance - they matter for all performers in terms of employment opportunity

HOWEVER, the way these rules are understood and applied is broadly different according to gender and ethnicity. And this results in different labour market outcomes


Performing is largely not thought of as ‘work’. However – product markets, labour markets, supply and demand

Underlying question: what are the factors involved in creating particular types of demand?

Glass ceilings, sticky floors – gender/age issues have not gone away