Letter: Why Arts Council has a women's unit

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Sir: Following David Lister's otherwise excellent article regarding the Price Waterhouse review of the Arts Council ('Who's watching the consultants?', 15 June), I would like to attempt to enlighten your readers about Mr Lister's and Price Waterhouse's bewilderment at a 'special unit for women in the arts'.

The Arts Council simply employs one person (title: Policy and Projects Officer) on a research project looking at the position of women in the arts industry.

I am one of the thousands of women working in the arts who had to begin my career (post-BA and MA) as a secretary - the traditional 'way in' for women, but not for men. Many of us would like to take time off to have children, but can only do so if we are assured of a good maternity leave wage and of childcare facilities thereafter.

In museums, female staff earn, on average, 25 per cent less than male staff. Some 70 per cent of public library staff are women, yet in England and Wales only 17.6 per cent of chief librarians are women. Only four of the Arts Council's members are women, and of the 10 regional arts boards only one is directed by a woman, yet 70 per cent of the Arts Council staff are women.

If the arts are to continue to realise their full potential, diversity and excellence, then this obvious inequality must be addressed. It is mostly the energy and creativity of women that keep the arts running, but few of us reach positions of real influence that make the difference. For black and Asian women, or women with disabilities, the position is even more grim. One wonders if a woman was represented on the Price Waterhouse team of reviewers.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW1

16 June