Actor Maureen Beattie has become only the second female president in Equity’s history.
She told The Stage her goal is to ensure every single member of the union is given equal opportunities to work, regardless of their sex, ethnicity or whether they have a disability.
Beattie, who recently starred in Yerma on Broadway, has been appointed president ahead of the official union elections, after the position was uncontested. She replaces Malcolm Sinclair, who has held the post for the past eight years.
Beattie described the role as “a massive job”.
“I have seen exactly how much there is to be achieved on an ongoing basis and the fights we have to fight. I have watched Malcolm Sinclair with awe. He has done a brilliant job and has changed Equity beyond recognition. I want to get the job right and do it well,” she said.
Beattie said she would like to focus on ensuring actors have equal opportunities for work, highlighting the campaign group ERA 50:50, which is striving to ensure women have equal representation on stage and screen.
She also emphasised the work to be done ensuring deaf and disabled actors are represented on UK stages.
“My dream is that every member of equity has as equal an opportunity to get work as any other member. That is not the round corner by any means, but we can make improvements,” she told The Stage.
Beattie, who led on the union’s investigation into sexual harassment, also spoke of “the lack of respect” in the industry, which she said underlined much of the abuse within the sector.
“If you treat our members badly we will come after you and you will know about it in no uncertain terms, as the world will also know about it, rather than it be something that goes underneath a veil,” she warned.
Beattie also said she would like to see Equity’s achievements better covered by the press and highlighted a recent article in a national newspaper that incorrectly stated Equity was against equality on stage.
“Why would a union not support that. It was quite shocking,” she said.
She added: “We are a PR’s dream. Our membership consists of some of the most famous people on the planet and one of the things I think we could do much more of is harness that and tell the world what we do,” she said.
The first female president was Beatrix Lehmann, in the 1940s.