May 2014. Elena Zecchin worked as a trainee for the Policy and Research Team at Chwarae Teg.

I’ve been here thanks to the Leonardo Da Vinci Programme, a European funded programme which supports mobility by organising work placements for graduates and school leavers, giving them the opportunity to gain experience working abroad.

I’ve been researching the role of women in the arts and culture sector in Wales, a sector I’m very passionate about.

My academic background is in foreign languages and cultural mediation and I’ve always been passionate about arts and drama, especially looking at them as agents of social change, more than ever when facing quite challenging times.

By investigating the position of women in the arts and culture sector I came up with a clearer idea of the difficulties and hindrances women face when trying to pursue a career in this field.

I discovered that within the arts and culture sector in Wales many barriers to wider representation still need to be broken.

I refer to the arts and culture sector as:

[…] those industries which have origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. Hence: art and crafts, film and video, television and radio.

The under-representation of women in the arts sector in the UK involves both the lack of artworks realized by women displayed in museums and galleries as well as the glass ceiling i.e. a lack of women undertaking leadership roles in the arts sector.

To tackle the first point, it might be useful looking at some key data provided by East London Fawcett:

between April 2012 and April 2013, the gender inequality within the visual arts sector was overwhelmingly stunning; of 134 commercial galleries, which collectively represent 3163 artists, 31% of the represented artists are women, 78% of the galleries represent more men than women, 17% of the galleries represent more women than men and 5% represent an equal number of male and female artists.

On the other hand, the issue might turn out to be quite controversial since according to the UK Arts Salary survey 2013 / 2014, the average arts worker is female, aged 34.5 years and is likely to have two degrees; she lives in London, works 36.5 hours per week, for which she earns £13,876 and she will remain in her current job for less than four years.

Whilst it seems that the arts have a better gender equality record, gender imbalance at boardroom level still persists, hence the second point: the glass ceiling in the arts sector.

Not enough women working in the arts and culture sector in the UK are rising to the top:

Percentage of women
National and regional museums and galleries Directors 28.0%
Chairs 9.3%
Trustees/Boards 27.4%
Television Companies CEO 0.0%
Chair 0.0%
Directors 27.6%
BBC Trustees 50.0%
National theatre companies Directors 31.8%
Chairs 10.0%
Funders Arts Council Board 43.8%
Big Lottery Fund Board 30.0%
Heritage Lottery Fund Board 60.0%


Moving on to the situation in Wales, according to Women Count, charity leaders in Wales 2012: benchmarking the participation of women in the largest charities in Wales, men are 67% of their chairs whereas women are a low 11% of their chief executives.

The 2011 / 2012 Revenue Funded Organisations Survey highlights women making up 45.8% of boards management and 42.6% in 2012 / 2013.

Once again the issue arises when investigating how women are advancing in leadership positions in the arts sector and having noticed a general lack of information and findings on the topic, as far as the scenario in Wales is concerned, I decided to provide some food for thought about this particularly key unaddressed issue by collecting some feedback from acquaintances working in the field.

I had the chance to talk with two inspirational women that I met during my stay in Wales: Dilys Jackson,a sculptor and environmental artist who is also actively involved in the Women’s Arts Association and Sian Gale, Director of – Cwmni Pawb ( Eng: Everybody’s Company ) – that specialises in training, research and evaluation for the Creative Industries as well as community organisations and trade unions.

The issue may still not be resolved but I do hope my little contribution might be found useful and hopefully stimulate a proper debate on the topic; I believe the more we bring it up, the more we can inspire action.

If you want to help me to raise awareness about this issue, have your say and please keep in touch.

Be the change YOU want to inspire.