Get Engaged

Our society in general devalues the ‘she’ – qualities that are associated with the feminine that are found in all of us. As a result there’s this imbalance and this distortion and it’s hindering our progress.

~ Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, actor, humanitarian

How All of Us Can Achieve Our Goal

There are many actions we can take and things we can do to bring awareness to gender bias in the performing and visual arts. As individual art supporters, teachers, performers, and administrators we can:

  • Teach children, using cartoons and illustrations to emphasize specific points, about the depictions of women in the arts
  • Educate adults by addressing outdated discriminatory subjects and images created in the visual arts
  • Modify or alter libretti, narrations, and characterizations in opera and other performance arts that are unacceptable by 21st century standards
  • Communicate the need for blind auditions in which the hiring panel is behind a screen so that employment decisions are not influenced by gender bias
  • Write letters to directors, curators, and other administrators
  • Be aware of gender awareness when writing surtitles, also known as supertitles
  • Install captions and plaques in museums to contextualize visual content
  • Generate gender neutral self-guiding museum tours


How Everyone Can Learn from the Statistics

The arts are often products of time and place, reflecting the prevailing gender biases of society. A recent Huffington Post article by Maura Reilly, arts writer and Chief Curator of the National Academy Museum, emphasizes the extent to which the arts leave women behind. In her words, “discrimination against women at the top trickles down into every aspect of the art world – gallery representation, auction price differentials, press coverage, and inclusion in permanent-collection displays and solo-exhibition programs.”

A stark example of how major museums still give short shrift to female artists is evidenced by the following facts:

  • Whitney Museum – 29% solo shows by women (data for 2007-2015)
  • Guggenheim – 14% solo shows by women (2014)
  • Centre Pompidou –16% solo shows by women (2007-2015)
  • Metropolitan Museum in NY – 4% permanent collections by women (2012)
  • Only five of the 33 most prominent art museums in the US and Canada had women at the helm (2015).
  • Only 33 percent of the artists featured in the Venice Biennale were women (2015)
  • Women are also systematically disadvantaged in the art market. In its yearly report,, which publishes international data on the art market, noted that only three women were listed among the top 100 artists represented in auction sales.


What is interesting is that there are about 60% women in MFA programs. Then when we look at gallery representation, it becomes 30% women. This means that when curators are looking at the work exhibited at the galleries, they are seeing 70% men, just as they are seeing 70% men at the museums. So it is a cycle. And it has to change…

~ Maura Reilly, arts writer and Chief Curator of the National Academy Museum

We need to work together to rid the visual and performing arts of gender bias by deploying enlightened gender representation, starting now. Institutions and administrations provide a critical link in this agenda. They not only provide the heft of all artistic programming for adults but also provide educational programs for children.

We invite you to consider ways in which you can become involved in helping to promote gender equality and combat negative gender depictions. If you are an institution, arts administrator, performer, or artist, please get in touch via the Contact page. If you are an individual interested in donating your time and talents to AGBA, please head over to the Volunteer page.



How We Can Celebrate Positive Change

We must ask ourselves which institutions and philanthropic foundations are positively supporting the arts as it relates to gender bias, and what are their criteria? Do they consider gender bias when giving grants and donating money? How can we reach out to philanthropists?

A small sample of entities and individuals exhibiting positive change in Washington, D.C. follow here.

Washington Performing Arts (WPA)

WPA embraces a broad spectrum of music and art forms as well as dynamic school programs. Jenny Bilfield was appointed Washington Performing Arts’ fourth President and CEO in April 2013. Early in her tenure she was recognized among the “30 Key Influencers in the Arts” by Musical America, honored by the Washington Chorus at its 2015 gala, and has twice been recognized (2013 and 2015) by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Washington.”

The National Museum of Women in the Arts

Founded 28 years ago, this is the first national art museum to display exclusively women’s art. It sponsors a network of over 20 national and international committees, engaging museum members who advocate for women artists at the local, regional, and international levels. The mission states that “by bringing to light remarkable women artists of the past while also promoting the best women artists working today, the museum directly addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art in the U.S. and abroad, thus assuring great women artists a place of honor now and into the future.”

Washington Ballet

Washington Ballet recently hired artistic director Julie Kent, a star ballerina with a 29-year career at American Ballet Theatre. She arrives in D.C. in July 2016 to lead all aspects of the multi-pronged organization. The company selected Kent, a woman, to follow in the footsteps of a highly regarded male director and choreographer Septime Webre. Hiring Kent is a positive step forward from the typical hiring practices of the past. According to Sarah Kaufman of the Washington Post, new director Kent will oversee the “21-member company and trainee programs; its training arm, the Washington School of Ballet, with more than 1,000 students; and its community engagement activities, such as the satellite program in Anacostia and offerings in the District’s public schools.”

Givers who made the Chronicle’s “Philanthropy 50” list donated a combined $9.8 billion to all charities, the publication found – up 27.5% from 2013. But gifts in the two cultural categories — museums/libraries and performing arts – dropped slightly, from $144.5 million to $141.9 million.