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Culture and Creativity

Gender equality

Woman holding a sign saying "We are equal!"

Towards a Union of Equality

The European Union (EU) Gender Equality Strategy seeks significant progress towards a gender-equal Europe by 2025. The Strategy presents policy objectives and actions to deliver on the commitment of the von der Leyen Commission to achieve a Union of Equality.

All citizens, regardless of their sex, gender identity and expression, sex characteristics, sexual identity; racial or ethnic origin, age, religion or belief and any disability, must be able to pursue their chosen path in life and have equal opportunities to thrive, participate and lead.

Presidency Conclusions on gender equality in the field of culture adopted in December 2020, underline the potential of culture to advance gender equality and acknowledge persistent gender inequalities in the sector.

The document refers in particular to obstacles related to

  • equal access to the cultural and creative labour market
  • equal payment and representation in creative and decision-making positions
  • equal appreciation and recognition of their work

It emphasises that gender stereotyping and sexual harassment and abuse remain major concerns in the cultural and creative sectors.

The Presidency Conclusions invite the EU Member States amongst others

  • to ensure equal pay
  • to promote a better work-life balance
  • to guarantee gender equality in the institutions and decision-making bodies of the sector
  • to promote research on gender equality and the collection of sex-disaggregated data in the field of culture

The European Commission (EC) is called upon to support transnational initiatives on gender equality in the field of culture and to promote the collection and distribution of culture-specific data on gender equality and cultural diversity in Europe.

Gender inequality in the cultural and creative sectors

Intersectional gender gaps persist in almost all cultural and creative sectors, with individuals experiencing discrimination based on their gender, other personal characteristics and identities.

The available data shows that female artists and cultural professionals across the EU typically have less access to creation and production resources, are paid much less than men and are underrepresented in leadership and other decision-making positions, as well as on the art market. Women are frequently victims of sexism, gender stereotypes and sexual harassment.

In France, for example, women constitute 52% of all Performing Arts students. However, they comprise only 31% of practicing artists, 11% of programmed artists and hold only 18% of managerial positions in these sectors. Only 4 - 12% of art awards have been granted to women since 1980.

Furthermore, 23% of projects supported by public funds in France are led by women. Women with the same competences or job earn on average 27% less than male artists (source: ‘Inégalités entre les femmes et les hommes dans les arts et la culture’, Haut Conseil à l’Égalité, 2018).

Music: In Europe, women represent 20% or less of registered composers and songwriters and, on average, earn 30% less than men working within the sector (source: ‘Women in Music’, 2019).

Theatre: In Ireland, women are underrepresented in every theatre role studied, with the exception of costume designers. Only 28% of script authors, 9% of sound designers and 37% of directors are women (source: Research commissioned by #WakingtheFeminists, 2017).

Circus: In Spain, the employment of women is notably reduced in companies that are economically stronger. 80% of artists on stage are men, versus 20% women. Show directors are nearly all men (source: Research by the Associació de Professionals de Circ de Catalunya (APCC), 2019).

Visual arts: Artwork by female artists represented only 3 - 5% of major permanent collections in Europe and the United States (USA) in 2017. At the same time, only 13.7% of living artists represented by galleries in Europe and North America are women (source: National Museum of Women in the Arts (USA), 2019).

More data is needed regarding gender inequalities faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQI) persons across the EU.

Tackling the gender gap

It is important to acknowledge and tackle the disparities caused by a gender gap in the cultural and creative sectors through targeted policy measures. The 2019-2022 Work Plan for Culture recognizes that gender equality is a pillar of cultural diversity and has a key role to play in challenging stereotypes and promoting societal change.

The Work Plan recommends two actions to tackle gender gaps in the cultural and creative sectors in the EU

  • mapping the situation of female artists and cultural professionals
  • convening the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) expert group to exchange experiences, good practices and to formulate recommendations

The EC has financed an EU-wide study on gender gaps in the cultural and creative sectors. The study analyses the specific challenges faced by women and provides recommendations to support policymaking addressing these issues.

Report on gender equality

In addition, the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) expert group on gender equality worked between autumn 2019 and spring 2021 to suggest a set of policy recommendations and actions in response to these challenges under the new Creative Europe programme.

The outcome is the OMC report, OMC report “Towards gender equality in the cultural and creative sectors” published in June 2021. The report focusses on the following key challenges:

  • gender stereotypes
  • sexual harassment
  • access to the labour market and the gender pay gap
  • access to resources
  • access to leadership positions and female entrepreneurship.

In addition to a general overview of the status quo of gender equality in the cultural and creative sectors, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this report details extensive recommendations and good practices on how to implement these.

The report is addressed at all policy makers and people in positions of power, as well as the cultural and creative sectors, the media, and the education sector.

The report recommends

  • improved collection of reliable and comparable data on the gender gaps across the EU
  • the importance of using gender-sensitive language
  • implementing gender equality in the workplace as well as gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming methodologies.

The EC launched the ‘Women on the move’ day in 2019 to discuss the issue of gender balance in the cultural and creative sectors. In follow-up to this, the EC published an overview of good practices from the audio-visual industry to be replicated across Member States.

The issue of gender balance in the cultural and creative sectors was also discussed in 2019 between the EC and cultural and creative sectors stakeholders as part of the ‘Voices of culture’ structured dialogue, which gathered 36 sector representatives from across the EU.

Creative Europe projects 

Several projects promoting gender equality have received co-funding under the Creative Europe programme, including a flagship initiative in the music sector – the Keychange project.

Keychange is an international campaign that encourages music festivals, orchestras, conservatoires, broadcasters, concert halls, agents, record labels and music organisations to pledge their commitment to achieving a 50:50 gender balance by 2022.

The new Creative Europe programme foresees strengthening the role of gender equality across beneficiary projects.