Site of publication: Unesdoc, Bibliothèque numérique
Type of publication : Rapport, édition spéciale
Year of publication : 2021
At a time of uncertainty, equality, diversity and social justice for all are more than ever important. A primary driver for the achievement of all these values is the transformative power of cultural and creative expressions, since, at their best, cultural and creative industries produce and present narratives, perspectives and visions of the world that demonstrate and embody freedom, collective action, equality, development and justice. A diversity of cultural expressions, as enshrined in the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, is a goal now actively pursued around the globe, across many different cultural sectors and forms of creative production.
Justifiably or not, gender identity can determine life chances, relative privilege, the ability to work and live free from violence and discrimination, and the extent to which people can freely express themselves and their beliefs and values. Diverse cultural expressions that promote gender equality can transform our individual and collective perceptions, banish long-held and damaging stereotypes and amplify the voices and stories of the invisible and/or long-silenced. This vision is embedded in Article 7 of the 2005 Convention, which states that “Parties are encouraged to pay due attention to the special circumstances and needs of women”, and Article 4 of the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist (1980), which encourages Parties to give particular attention to the development of women’s creativity and the encouragement of groups and organizations which seek to promote the role of women in the various branches of artistic activity. It is further elaborated in the Monitoring Framework of the 2005 Convention, one of the four goals of which is the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and 16 “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
Gender (in)equality in the cultural and creative sectors
Non-standard and precarious work
Cultural work, like any other kind of work, is subject to equal opportunity policies, employment rights and various kinds of protection like all other workplaces, as enshrined in the 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist. However, as this work is defined by the ILO as ‘non-standard’, that it is often freelance, part-time, project-based, precarious or insecure, these rights and policies are not always applied to creative occupations, which has a major impact on women creative workers for whom progress on reaching decent work conditions is recognized to be slower than for men. The precarious nature of creative employment and the informal hiring and employment dynamics in the cultural industries also mean it can be particularly challenging to produce, gather and replicate robust data on everything from demographics to pay rates. Indeed, existing partial and irregularly updated data demonstrates that gender equality in the cultural sector is far from being achieved and that women remain in a precarious situation in the workforce. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics Fact Sheet Precarious situation for women working in the field of culture, released in 2017, shows that women in cultural occupations are more likely to have more than one job compared to women in non-cultural occupations.On average, in 2015, 10% of women in cultural employment held more than one job, compared to 7% of women with jobs outside of the culture sector. Moreover, for 69% of countries with available data, there were more selfemployed women working in the culture sector (34%) than in non-culture sectors (24%). These figures also highlight great disparities within countries. In Mali and Uganda, for example, more than 90% of women in cultural jobs were selfemployed compared to just 7% in Brunei Darussalam. Lastly, in 85% of countries, the number of women working part-time in cultural occupations was higher than the number of men. This difference is more prevalent for countries in North America, Europe and Latin America.
In the majority of countries, not being in formal employment also profoundly impacts entitlements to maternity or other caregiving benefits. In fields such as culture, where freelancing or short, temporary and insecure contracts dominate, this contributes to the underrepresentation of mothers and to the lack of female representation at senior levels, impeding career advancement. According to UN Women, women make 77 cents for every dollar men earn and this inequity is exacerbated for women with children. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the gender pay gap is 4% and 14% respectively, but rises to 31% and 35% for women with children. Women also face greater challenges if mechanisms like parental leave are limited and if working hours are inflexible. This is known as the ‘motherhood penalty’.
Gender pays gaps
Data is also increasingly used to illuminate persistent gender pay gaps across industries and professions. Gender pay gaps are prevalent for numerous reasons. First, the feminisation of particular cultural sectors means the pay is low and the workforce is largely made up of women. There may not therefore be a pay gap within a sector but rather between cultural sectors that are viewed as more or less lucrative and therefore more or less economically viable. Second, there are different levels of remuneration for the same work. Third, the informal and low paid nature of much of the creative economy means that gender pay gaps are often viewed as ‘too hard’ to tackle or resolve in the face of more general low and no-pay working conditions.
According to UN Women, women make 77 cents for every dollar men earn and this inequity is exacerbated for women with children. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the gender pay gap is 4% and 14% respectively, but rises to 31% and 35% for women with children. Women also face greater challenges if mechanisms like parental leave are limited and if working hours are inflexible. This is known as the ‘motherhood penalty’
Thus, gender pay gaps are hard to discuss and even harder to monitor and alleviate. While we have some insights into pay gaps in cultural occupations in particular, this data is also challenging to gather and collate effectively because of the features of cultural labour markets already highlighted, which make compulsory gender pay-gap reporting hardly applicable. Salaries are also often proprietary if cultural employers are privately rather than publicly-owned and pay may be negotiated individually for each cultural worker if unions or guilds are not in operation to set standard pay rates. The ILO reports that the global wage gap in 2018/2019 sits at around 20% and highlights that ‘traditional explanations’ for this continued gap such as motherhood or differing levels of education between men and women play a limited role in this continued gap. The ILO notes that what is needed are basic correctives such as “combating stereotypes and discrimination at the point of entry into labour markets.”
Seniority, leadership and decision-making power
Regarding seniority and access to decision-making and managerial positions, the 2020 ILO Report “The business case for change”15 has found that, on average, in the field of arts, entertainment and recreation, women account for 26% of junior management positions, 34% for middle, 29% for senior and 31% for executive management positions. Partial data reported by different States also offers a worrying picture of the situation. In the United Kingdom’s culture sectors, only 15% of women under the age of 35 are in senior roles, compared with 31% of men.
Serious research into cultural leadership in Argentina shows that decision making power in media companies is held mainly by men. This research also highlights that senior figures in media companies often deny the existence of any problem with gender equality, as do those in cultural and creative enterprises and organizations. According to them, recruitment is based on merit, but the data tell a different story.
One “charitable explanation” would suggest that gender inequality is a thing of the past, and the current unevenness is simply a matter of women not yet having had time to work their way into older cohorts or more senior roles.
Regarding seniority and access to decision-making and managerial positions, the 2020 ILO Report “The business case for change”15 has found that, on average, in the field of arts, entertainment and recreation, women account for 26% of junior management positions, 34% for middle, 29% for senior and 31% for executive management positions. Partial data reported by different States also offers a worrying picture of the situation. In the United Kingdom’s culture sectors, only 15% of women under the age of 35 are in senior roles, compared with 31% of men
Towards better participation and representation
A crucial barrier to full and unequivocal gender equality is a number of myths which circulate in the cultural and creative sectors and industries and are used to explain the lack of progress in relation to gender equality, even within industries for which data is plentiful and where there may be evidence of progress towards gender equality. These myths include for example the myth of meritocracy – the idea that subjective concepts such as ‘talent’ or ‘hard work’ alone, determine who is creative and who is not. This is often used to justify (unhelpfully and inaccurately) why there are not more women in leadership positions in cultural industries.
In the recently submitted quadrennial periodic reports, more data is available on inequities in governance and management structures in arts and culture. And importantly, those inequities are framed as motivations for change via gender equality action plans.
For example, in Burkina Faso, the implementation of the National Gender Policy (NGP), whose objective was to “promote the participatory and equitable development of men and women, ensuring equal and equitable access to and control over resources and decision-making spheres, with respect for their fundamental rights” is also expected to significantly impact women’s representation in the creative industries and sectors. Due to the crosscutting nature of gender, all ministries and institutions were expected to work towards this objective. In the culture sector, gender mainstreaming in cultural policy was introduced and the extent to which gender equality was promoted was measured using three indicators: the proportion of women in public administration, the proportion of women in the governing bodies of professional organizations, and the proportion of women in decision-making roles in public administration. In addition, a “Gender Unit” was created in all ministries, including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCAT).
Enhancing visibility for women and gender diverse artists and creatives
Highlighting innovative projects that enhance the visibility of women and gender diverse artists and creatives is crucial for opening up dialogue, building capacities and overwriting unhelpful myths and stereotypes. For example, KeyChange is an international campaign that both invests in talent development and encourages music organizations of all kinds (music festivals, orchestras, conservatoires, broadcasters, concert halls, record labels) to sign up to a 50:50 gender balance pledge by 2022. It began in 2017 as a European talent development programme for emerging artists, led by the Performing Rights Society Foundation in the United Kingdom. Over 300 organizations have now signed up to the 50:50 gender pledge. In Latin America, the multidisciplinary network ‘Conectadas Latinoamerica’ brings together women cultural workers from 13 countries of the region to collectively promote cultural initiatives and actions demanding recognition for women’s artistic and cultural work. The network is currently involved in developing the first Latin American mapping of women cultural workers.
Towards safe and healthy spaces for creation
Artistic freedom and gender equality – a dual focus
Both the 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist and the UNESCO 2005 Convention call on governments to introduce and maintain measures and policies that demonstrably improve the working and living conditions of artists and enable them to exercise their full artistic powers free from censorship, oppression and genderbased discrimination.
As stated in the Special Edition of the 2005 Convention Global Report series Freedom & Creativity: defending art, defending diversity, restrictions on artistic freedom target women, among other categories of the population, more specifically. The former UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, recognized in her 2013 report, The right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity, that “Women artists and audiences are at particular risk in some communities, and are prohibited from performing arts altogether, from solo performances before mixed audiences or from performing with men. In several countries many women making a living as artists, or wishing to engage in artistic carriers, particularly in the area of cinema, theatre, dance and music continue to be labelled as ‘loose’ or prostitutes.
Eliminating harassment and abuse
Women and those who identify as gender diverse continue to suffer intolerable levels of gender-based violence in all parts of the world and this violence, whether it is perpetrated in private or in public, affects their ability to work and to participate safely in all aspects of life, including cultural life. At all levels of the labour market in the cultural sectors, they fare worse than men; their safety and well-being are not prioritised or secured. Even in the most privileged creative professions, various mechanisms are used to silence women who speak up about abuse and harassment. For example, legal clauses may prevent women from speaking out (see In Focus, below) and the routine use of nondisclosure agreements in many cultural industries from film to journalism to new media technology, continues to render women’s experiences “unspeakable”. Awareness of sexual harassment and abuse and the toll this takes on women and gender diverse creatives is evident. Fortunately, we see a laudable emerging focus on safety and well-being in numerous countries which signals that there is significant momentum towards change in these areas at various levels of action.
At the level of national policy and legislative action, in Costa Rica, the national policy for the care and prevention of violence against women 2017-2032 includes actions that give priority to the allocation of competitive cultural grants to initiatives promoting an ethic of equality between men and women and the training of men, through culture, for the “eradication of the power of domination and sexist control”. This policy also promotes protections and/or sanctions in administrative and judicial headquarters in order to tackle workplace and public sexual harassment.
Work towards global, robust, transparent and comparable data that monitors gender equality in culture and creative sectors is needed more than ever before. States should increase the scope of their data-gathering efforts beyond ‘headcounting’ to include information on gender pay gaps in culture, sex-disaggregated cultural participation and intersectional barriers. Linking up disparate national frameworks, sources of data and targeted measures and policies and producing a global language and a global programme of action for achieving gender equality in the cultural and creative industries remains a key challenge.
Move faster from research and data-gathering to policy design, implementation and assessment. Collectively, governments and other relevant actors need to document and share effective examples of gender transformative cultural measures that lead to global policy action and to support the design of comprehensive gender transformative policies for creativity addressing systemic discrimination and structural inequalities in the culture sectors.
Strengthen communication and collaboration between State-funded cultural agencies, activists, civil society organizations, representatives of cultural professionals’ associations and academics and ensure that multi-stakeholder and inter-ministerial dialogue is established and maintained and that women are closely involved in the governance of culture.
A continued focus on mechanisms facilitating access to and funding of creative work and participation in the governance of culture of gender diverse people is central to effectively advance gender equality in the culture sector and ensure the diversity of cultural expressions.
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