Study of anonymous member data shows members of color face fewer work opportunities and lower average salaries
Actors' Equity, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers, released a groundbreaking new diversity study of employment on two of its major contracts. The study, which examined the casts of new productions that opened between 2013 to 2015, shows that women and members of color have fewer work opportunities and often draw lower salaries when they do find work.
"This study came about because our Council made diversity and inclusion a priority and our staff spent months working on the data," said Executive Director Mary McColl. "With this study, we can take an empirical look at hiring biases in our industry. Women and members of color have fewer work opportunities, and when they do get hired, they often are hired on lower-paying contracts. Equity has fought for diversity and inclusion at the bargaining table for years. What we learned with this study is that we won't negotiate our way out of this problem. We need an industry-wide conversation about how we can change the stage."
Notably, the study covers the casts of the Broadway and Production Tours as well as the Off-Broadway contracts, where Equity members make up the entire cast. Equity is the only organization that has the comprehensive member data to create such a study.
Diversity and inclusion challenges are apparent on both the Broadway and Production Tours and Off-Broadway contracts. Women of color who do find work almost always draw lower average contractual salaries. For example, Off-Broadway, women of color reported earning 16 percent less than the average in the principal in a musical contracts.
Diversity and inclusion is a problem not just on the stage, but also in the wings. While women make up a majority of stage managers Off-Broadway, that doesn’t tell the full story. Female stage managers on an Off-Broadway contract reported lower salaries than men.
What's more, there are very few opportunities for members of color – across the three year study period, there were only 38 positions offered to stage managers of color in both Broadway and Production Tours and Off-Broadway. As stage managers, women of color earned 6 percent less than the Broadway and Production Tours contractual salary average and 12 percent less Off Broadway.
Key Points on Hiring Bias in the Broadway and Production Tours Contracts
Women are underrepresented in principal in a play (women make up only 35 percent of contracts), principal in a musical (42 percent of contracts) and stage manager (37 percent of contracts). Meanwhile, women who do find work are drawing lower salaries in both principal in a musical and chorus contracts.
Caucasians make up a majority of all onstage contracts – principal in a play (65 percent of contracts ) principal in a musical (66 percent of contracts ) and chorus (57 percent of contracts). Caucasians are generally hired with higher contractual salaries. African-American members reported salaries 10 percent lower than the average in principal in a play roles, for example.
A stunning 77 percent of stage manager contracts on the Broadway and Production Tours went to Caucasians – over three years there were only six (6) contracts given to African American members, for example.
To view the full dataset for the Broadway and Production Tours, click here.
Key Points on Hiring Bias in the Off-Broadway Contract
Off-Broadway, women are underrepresented when it comes to principal in a play (39 percent of contracts). Meanwhile, men are hired with higher contractual salaries than women in principal in a musical, chorus and stage manager contracts.
Caucasians are generally hired with higher contractual salaries. African-American members reported earning 16 percent less in principal in a musical roles, for example.
With 83 percent of stage manager contracts going to Caucasians, there are very few opportunities for stage managers of color. There were only five (5) Off-Broadway contracts given to African American members over three years.
To view the full dataset for the Off-Broadway contract, click here.
The study comes after Actors' Equity announced a commitment to hire the organization's first ever diversity director. Last year, Equity's National Council committed to taking a leadership role on diversity and inclusion and committed to working with the entire industry to help build forward-looking strategies – both within the organization and in the broader community -- to help change the stage.
The study examined anonymous data of members in two contracts – the Broadway and Production Tours Contract and Off-Broadway Contract. Because these casts are all Equity members, it allows for a more comprehensive look at diversity and inclusion.
The study included the opening night casts of shows which opened between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015. Shows running during the study period but which opened prior to the study, such as Phantom of the Opera, were excluded.
Member data was based on how members chose to self-identify their gender, race and ethnicity. Members earning $10,000/week overscale were excluded.
Both the Broadway and Production Tours Contracts and the Off-Broadway Contracts in this study include multiple tiers of minimum salaries. The Off-Broadway data does not include ANTC employment, which was separately negotiated until 2016.
READ MORE: Looking at Hiring Biases By The Numbers from the Spring, 2017 issue of Equity News