Letter: Why Arts Council has a women's unit

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The Independent Online
Sir: David Lister, in his assessment of the Price Waterhouse review of the Arts Council , states that he is bewildered as to why there is a special unit for women in arts at the Arts Council.

As a woman and a member of an organisation that was represented, along with more than 350 delegates, at the Arts Council's recent conference 'Women in Arts, Notions of Equality', I feel qualified to answer. As women we form 51 per cent of the population, yet we do not have access to anywhere near 51 per cent of the resources available to the arts. It is therefore necessary for the lead body for the arts to take action.

Despite the adoption by the British Government of the United Nations' 'Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women' document (1985), women in the arts remain vastly under-represented in both senior management and the decision-making process.

The recommendations made in 'Forward-looking Strategies' are specific - they must be implemented and if it takes a 'special' Women in Arts unit, then so be it.

It is also worth noting that the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, like the Race Relations Act of 1976, has legal ramifications for the cultural sector. Partly in response to the latter, the Arts Council set up a unit which deals with issues relating to the arts of ethnic minority peoples (now called the cultural diversity unit, because of its broader remit).

In the meantime, Mr Lister should ask why it has taken the Arts Council so long to tackle such an important area.

Yours faithfully,


Akwaaba Women's Group

London, SE15

16 June