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Shoshana Wasser

Associate Director of Public Affairs and Communications
Toll-free in Ontario: 1-800-387-0058

New report provides insight into the status of women in the arts in Canada

October 17, 2018

The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) has released The status of women in the Canadian arts and cultural industries: Research review 2010-2018, a report commissioned by OAC from a research team led by Dr. Amanda Coles, a Canadian on faculty at Australia’s Deakin University.


This report provides an important synthesis of existing research on the status of women in the arts in Ontario and Canada. The majority of existing research focuses on specific sectors, such as media arts/screen, or theatre, etc., rather than addressing the arts and cultural industries as a whole.


The report covers six sectors: visual arts, dance, theatre, literature, music, and media arts/screen.


Key Findings from the Report

Earnings and income

  • Research shows a pervasive gender-based income gap across all six sectors under review. Overall, women’s average incomes are lower than their male peers – a defining feature of work in the Canadian arts and cultural industries.

Education and training

  • Gender inequality in the arts and cultural industries cannot be explained by the education or skill of professional female artists and cultural workers. A cross-sectoral analysis of available data on education and training clearly shows that across all six sectors, women are as highly educated as men.


  • Women are well represented in administrative leadership roles in visual arts, publishing, and theatre, and in the top tier of Canadian orchestras. Executive and organizational leadership roles in the music industry are male-dominated. There is a notable shortage of data on organizational leadership in broadcasting, film and television production, the interactive digital media sector, and dance.
  • Women are severely under-represented in key artistic leadership roles in media arts/screen, theatre and music. In contrast, key artistic leadership roles in visual arts and publishing, such as curators and editors, are female dominated.

Career and industry recognition

  • Across all sectors, women’s artistic and creative works receive significantly less public visibility (for example, productions or exhibitions) and recognition (awards) than those of men.

Workforce and employment patterns

  • Overall, the arts and cultural industries workforce in Ontario is gender-equal. Fifty-two percent of Ontario artists, and fifty-one percent of cultural workers in Ontario, are female. However, the gender distribution within nine key arts occupational groups varies considerably:
    • Four groups are gender imbalanced, with more than 60% representation of one gender: dancers (86% female); artisans and craftspersons (61% female); producers, directors and choreographers (33% female); and conductors, composers and arrangers (35% female);
    • Four groups are gender balanced (i.e. no less than 40% and no more than 60% of one gender): other performers (53% female); visual artists (54% female); authors and writers (54% female); and actors and comedians (46% female);
    • One group, musicians and singers (50% female) is gender equal (i.e. 49-51% gender distribution).

Learn more.


Literature Review Identified Gap

The review identified a lack of existing research that examined how gender inequality may be compounded when combined with other factors of discrimination such as racialization, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc. In addition, the existing research largely frames gender as binary (i.e. in terms of male and female only).  These gaps in the existing research meant that the report was unable to address the important issues of intersections and non-binary gender equality.



“I am pleased that the Ontario Arts Council is able to contribute to our overall understanding of the status of women in the arts. This is not a new issue. However, there is a renewed interest in the subject, at times as part of larger discussions about equity. We will build on this work by asking individual applicants a broader range of demographic questions, including gender, beginning in 2019-20, through a voluntary self-identification approach,” said Rita Davies, Chair of the Ontario Arts Council.


“OAC’s report will complement other upcoming initiatives that will add to our collective knowledge in this area. For example, there is the pending report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s review of Gender Parity on the Boards and Senior Leadership Levels of Canadian Artistic and Cultural Organizations,” said Peter Caldwell, OAC Director & CEO. “We look forward to exploring with our arts and funder colleagues how to help the arts community gather better data on their workforce.”



This report includes a cross-sectoral analysis, identifying the common themes that emerge from a review of the sector-specific research studies – and noting differences across the sectors. It focuses on key quantitative indicators that illuminate the professional experiences of women artists and cultural workers in Ontario specifically and in Canada more broadly.


Data was sourced from published literature, with an emphasis on scholarly research and high-quality industry reports. Secondary sources, including mainstream media sources and industry advocacy material, were used when credible and appropriate, to fill in knowledge gaps.


About Dr. Amanda Coles

Amanda Coles is a Canadian scholar, who holds a PhD in Comparative Public Policy from McMaster University. She is a lecturer in the Masters of Arts and Cultural Management in the Faculty of Business and Law program at Deakin University (Australia), a Co-Researcher with the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT) in Montreal, Canada, and an Affiliate Researcher with the Centre for People, Organisation and Work (CPOW) at RMIT University (Australia).


Research Inquiries

Kathryn Townshend
Director of Research, Policy and Evaluation
1-800-387-0058 ext. 7456

Media Inquiries

Kirsten Gunter
Director of Communications
1-800-387-0058, ext. 7403