New data from the National Endowment for the Arts, summarized in the research brief “Artists in the Workforce: Selected Demographic Characteristics Prior to COVID‐19,” paints a fuller picture of why women in the dance industry, particularly women of color, were particularly devastated by the pandemic. When combined with Dance Data Project®’s forthcoming Gender Equity Index—which was born out of a necessity to center policies and initiatives that keep and advance women in the arts—these findings call for more intentional support towards women in the dance industry and the performing arts overall.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) research finds that the occupation of dancer/choreographer posed the perfect storm of challenges entering the pandemic: a workforce that is majority female; is young, with less acquired wealth and established careers; comprises a high percentage of non-white workers; and makes the lowest median annual earnings. From 2015-2019, the percentage of dancers and choreographers who identified as female was 77.4%, the highest percentage of female workers of any artist occupation examined. Dancers and choreographers stood at the extremes of other categories as well, including the lowest median age of artist occupations (27 years old), highest percentage of non-white or Hispanic workers (44.1%), and the lowest median annual earnings of any artist occupation studied ($36,365).[1]

Dance Data Project® (DDP) has reported on gender equity in dance leadership since 2018. In April 2021, DDP released its first Connecting the Dots Data Byte, which sourced over 60 articles and studies to reflect the generational suffering of women at the expense of COVID-19’s global impact. In May 2022, DDP released an Updated Connecting the Dots Data Byte, diving deeper into this narrative and highlighting the pandemic’s even stronger hold on women as men have now completely recouped their workforce losses. To make sense of these challenges facing women in the arts, Connecting the Dots brings together data from both the pandemic’s impact on the arts industry and the general status of women in the workforce.

In conversation with women and male allies in the dance ecosystem, DDP has recognized several immediate needs:

  1. More data on women and what are their barriers to continuing careers in the arts, including at what point female dancers and dance makers feel they have no choice but to exit the workforce.
  2. Adopting national standards for arts institutions—large and small—to implement codes of conduct and procedures around sexual harassment and assault to ensure safe, nontoxic work environments, the ability to report up a clear chain of command, and confidentiality.
  3. Recognition of women’s additional obligations as primary childcare and elder care providers, with appropriate support both from employers and state and local governments.

Read the full article about gender equity in the arts by Isabelle Marie Ramey at ARTS Blog.