More women are needed in top-ranking arts posts, says Culture minister

Arts Correspondent,Arifa Akbar
Wednesday 02 April 2008 00:00

Britain's creative industries are lagging behind other sectors in the fight for gender equality with leading arts institutions suffering from a dearth of women in high-ranking positions, the Culture minister Margaret Hodge has warned.

Outlining the "huge challenge" facing the arts world, Ms Hodge said it had a "longer way to go than other industries" before it achieved sufficient diversity. Far too few women occupied positions in the boardrooms and non-executive positions of the country's top arts institutions, she added. "Ironically, this sector has a longer way to travel to really reflect diversity than other sectors," she said. "There is the challenge around women not just in executive positions but also in non-executive positions... We need to ensure barriers are removed."

Despite the notable exceptions of some women, including Jude Kelly, artistic director of the South Bank Centre, who have risen to leading positions in the arts world, almost all the key arts roles are occupied by men.

Ms Hodge's comments came as some of the industry's leading figures met at a review of the Cultural Leadership Programme, a £12m Government-backed initiative. Graham Devlin, who helped compile the review, said the arts world should "break down the... barriers to wider representation".

Several senior figures within performing and visual arts came out in support of Ms Hodge. Diane Lees, the director designate of the Imperial War Museum, who is also part of the Women Leaders in Museums Network, said not enough women made it to the top.

"There are huge numbers of women in the sector but they are not rising to the top or they were not previously rising to the top," she said. "It's about creating a welcoming environment. Because of the way globalisation and the way organisations are changing, there's a strong need for women's style of leadership which is about being consultative and having a more nurturing approach."

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, half of whose trustees are women, said: "We have a good number of senior women working in the museums sector and public galleries but not enough contribute as directors of the largest institutions."

Alistair Spalding, the artistic director of Sadler's Wells theatre, said keeping women in the industry was "10 times more difficult" due to expenses that came with motherhood, especially when it was difficult to survive at the early stages of a career where wages are low.

Chris Smith, the former culture secretary and the current director of the Clore Leadership Programme, called for more training programmes. "Part of the answer to the question [about lack of diversity] lies in investment in training," he said.

But Venu Dhupa, the British Council director of arts, said: "It's not about endless training courses but encouraging people to envision themselves in a position of authority, and being able to sustain that in a climate that does not always accommodate diversity."

10 men, two women – British art's most powerful

Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate Galleries (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives)

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum

Vikki Heywood, Executive director of Royal Shakespeare Company

Jude Kelly, Artistic director of the South Bank Centre

Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery

Charles Saumarez Smith, Chief executive of the Royal Academy

Chris Frayling, Chairman of The Arts Council

Nicholas Hytner, Artistic director of National Theatre

Tony Hall, Chief executive of Royal Opera House

Jonathan Mills, Director of the Edinburgh International Festival

Roger Wright, Director of The Proms music festival

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in