Giving Compass' Take:

• Martha Richards, founder of WomenArts, encourages the art world to seek out more "sideline female artists" for leadership roles to build a more diverse and inclusive environment.

• What are the underlying reasons for neglecting female artists? How can art philanthropists push for more initiatives that promote diversifying leadership positions? 

• Read about how to grow female change-makers into leaders. 

Twenty-five years ago, I left my job as the Managing Director of a regional theatre and started WomenArts. I deliberately moved from the center track to the sidelines because I wanted to work with women artists. They were the ones I loved the most—especially women artists of color and lesbian artists. They were the reason I had originally gone into the arts, and I had felt their absence during my 20 years in mainstream arts organizations.

WomenArts mainly serves independent and community-based artists, and it puzzles me that they are so often ignored in discussions about gender parity or cultural policy. Even though there are far more artists working independently than in large mainstream organizations, most of the recent gender parity discussions have been focused on the employment statistics at the big institutions.

I am thrilled that more women are moving into leadership roles in major arts organizations, and I am sure they will have a positive impact. But we need to face the fact that there are not enough jobs to go around at those institutions. Even if we had women leading every major arts organization in the U.S., there would still be thousands of unemployed or under-employed women artists.

I would like to propose a paradigm shift. What would happen if we took a closer look at those independent artists on the sidelines? What if we stopped neglecting them and recognized that they are a vast national resource? Could we find ways to work with them to build a more diverse and inclusive cultural environment where many more artists, and our society as a whole, would flourish? These are the tantalizing questions at the heart of my work with WomenArts.

Read the full article about WomenArts by Martha Richards at ARTS Blog