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Inquiry urged into why women are being held back in the arts

Jennifer Tuckett, leader of the master's course in dramatic writing at Drama Centre London
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The government must hold an inquiry into the barriers holding women back from working in the arts, the leader of Drama Centre London’s dramatic writing master’s course has demanded.

Jennifer Tuckett, who is also director of mentoring programme University Women in the Arts, made the recommendation in response to research indicating a large gap between the number of women studying the arts and those working in the sector.

Addressing MPs in a House of Commons committee event called Is Education Preparing Us for the Jobs of the Future?, Tuckett said: “At the University of the Arts London, Europe’s largest and leading arts university, more than 70% of students are female.

“However, research by the British Theatre Consortium, Tonic Theatre and others has shown that in the industry only 30% of professional playwrights, directors and artists are female.”

Tuckett believes diversity quotas to be the “only effective way of addressing the situation” and has called for a “more robust” mentoring system for women.

She said University Women in the Arts had found five main factors holding women back, including a lack of confidence, a need for resilience, and women not helping other women.

The programme also identified that men “gravitate towards people who are similar to them as employees”, and that issues occur when women have children.

Tuckett quoted Elizabeth Freestone, former artistic director of Pentabus Theatre Company, who said men outnumber women two to one at leadership level due to barriers around pay and childcare and women “not being offered the gigs and breaks their male peers are”.

Tuckett’s recommendations to address the lack of women working in the arts, particularly in artistic and leadership roles:

  • A government inquiry investigating the difference between the number of women studying the arts and working in the arts
  • Using diversity quotas
  • Introducing a better mentoring system and funding for mentoring schemes to help women make the transition from studying to working in the arts

University Women in the Arts is launching an online survey into why more women study the arts but fewer women work in the arts: click here to access the survey.

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