Sandra Blake, Director, AGBA
I am a social entrepreneur, intent on bettering mankind by developing awareness of gender bias, especially in the arts.
My life experience relates directly to the mission of this organization I established in 2016. Much of my career has been focused in the fields of music and human resources – the former, my passion since age eight, and the latter, my chief monetary source and business hobby.
In the latter part of the 20th century, I was a mezzo soprano and chorus member for 10 years with the Washington National Opera. I also sang in the Wolf Trap children’s theater and performed in the Wolf Trap opera company the season that Beverly Sills resurrected and sang Donizetti operas there in the sweltering outdoor heat of summer evenings. I trained in Graz, Austria, to pursue solo engagements in Europe but abandoned attempts after one season. I then turned to the business world full-time. I hold a degree from the University of Hawaii.
As a Federal government trainee for the U.S. Army, I began work in Japan in operational human resources. Living in Japan among Japanese citizens and American GIs, I saw reenacted many times over scenes similar to those captured by Puccini’s Madame Butterfly some decades earlier.
I next worked in human resources policy at the Federal Office of Personnel Management for many years. This was followed by 12 years as a consultant, much of the time specializing in gender and racial bias studies in the workplace. This specialty was called “comparable worth,” where dissimilar jobs (secretary vs. tree trimmer, nursing assistant vs. janitor, clinical sociologist vs. plant manager) were measured for their comparable intrinsic value, and therefore, similarity in pay. I carried out job studies related to gender in corporations; city, county, and state pay systems; and non-profit organizations in the US as well as in Canadian provinces. Jobs were typically identified as male jobs and female jobs, with the female job clusters frequently paying less. Women’s clusters were referred to as “pink ghettoes.” Even though professional credentials and responsibilities in these jobs frequently exceeded those of male jobs (blue and white collar jobs), women so employed often received less pay. I revamped compensation to produce pay equality for scores of women. A highly satisfying lifetime accomplishment for me has been to improve the quality of life, through pay, for innumerable undervalued women. Unfortunately, as many women in the general population are aware, this situation still exists in many employment settings.
Years of in-depth analysis of the determinants of pay systems, and recognition of overt and covert biases in organizations of all sizes and types, has developed my highly sensitized awareness of gender biases against women in most arenas of western society, including the arts. My present mission is to better the world by eliminating gender bias in the arts for 50 percent of the world’s population, women. Given my love of the arts, this is a productive place to focus my efforts. Change is possible. We have seen the Berlin Wall come down, smoking banned in the Paris airport, and death on the highways decrease as a result of the work of the advocacy organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I believe that gender bias can be radically reduced and that a stand for women’s fairness in the arts is worth the effort.