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Erica Whyman – ‘still no gender equality among theatre leaders’

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Royal Shakespeare Company deputy artistic director Erica Whyman has labelled it “shocking” that leaders in the theatre industry are still predominantly male.

She was speaking at a forum called Women in the Arts, held recently at London’s St James Studio, where female professionals from the worlds of theatre, film, journalism and other disciplines came together to discuss the challenges facing their gender in the workplace.

Whyman said: “It’s shocking and remains shocking to me that in such a progressive culture – which the theatre often is and has led the way with lots of social change – we still don’t have parity of leadership.”

“Which is not to say we don’t have enormous numbers of women who have been leading in the theatre for a very long time,” she added.

She said that despite the theatre industry having a reputation for being progressive and “pushing boundaries” and the UK having a “long, distinguished history” of women performing on stage “once they were allowed to,” more needs to be done to ensure equal representation in leadership positions.

Hosted by Sarah Berger, the founder of social network the So and So Arts Club, the event saw Whyman sit on the panel alongside Channel 4 news’s social affairs editor Jackie Long among others.

Whyman also said she ‘bemoaned” the fact that she has been referred to as an “emerging” theatre director for more than 20 years, because it implied she was not yet established.

She added that men entering the industry are viewed as “rising stars” who are going to “save the universe” more often than women.

“There is a huge gender disparity at the moment of being a rising star. There are far, far more young men who are [referred to as] rising stars and there are very few women in that bracket,” said Whyman.

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