Equity Publishes Hiring Bias and Wage Gaps Report on Theatre in 2021

New York -- Actors’ Equity Association, the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers working in live theatre, has published Progress During an Atypical Year: Hiring Bias and Wage Gaps in Theatre in 2021. The latest installment in Equity’s series of Hiring Bias and Wage Gaps reports, this document examines employment opportunity and average salaries for members of the union in 2021. This report found that the industry may be making progress towards diversity and equity in union jobs for stage managers and actors. The report may be downloaded in both standard and higher accessibility editions here.

To make this determination, the report analyzes the distribution of new contracts and the average weekly salaries among six distinct and intersecting protected identity categories: race/ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status. This report also examines the intersection of some of these identities to see how age/race, age/gender and race/gender shift these distributions. 

Equity has been tracking this data since 2013, and this is the fourth iteration of this report. As 2021 was a year severely affected by COVID, with the theatre industry still partially shut down, there were far fewer union contracts issued overall than in 2019, the last full year of performances. However, the available data shows modest improvement, including an increased percentage of contracts going to stage managers and actors of color. 

“We see some encouraging trends in this report,” said Al Vincent, Jr., executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “The theatre industry has real potential to be a beacon of diversity and inclusion, and having this data helps us better advocate for our members. We still have a ways to go, and we urge employers to keep these findings in mind when programming a season and hiring stage managers and actors.” 

“Transforming our industry is a group project, as well as a long game; it’s urgent that we continue to collectively rededicate ourselves to this work,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “It’s my hope that the data presented here will inspire all of us working for change to consider how we can level the playing field within our own spheres of influence.” 

Highlights of the report’s findings include: 

  • There has been a steady, though small, increase in the job opportunities made available to BIPOC members, although this progress is unevenly distributed across the different types of Equity contracts. 
  • There has been little change between the percentage of new contracts that went to men and women in the last several years, though the number of new contracts that have gone to non-binary and third gender workers has been on the rise. 
  • The number of new contracts issued to actors and stage managers above the age of 44 is significantly less than for younger members. This is exacerbated for Equity members with marginalized identities, such BIPOC workers. 

Equity members can help make future reports as accurate as possible by supplying their demographic information through the union’s self-ID form in the member portal. Individual responses remain anonymous, and data is only used in aggregate in cases like this report. 

REPORT CREDITS: Report authored by Danee Conley. Data compiled by Russell Lehrer. Introduction by Equity President Kate Shindle. Additional contributions by David Levy, Rachel Goldfarb and Sidney Wegener. Design and layout by Noah Diamond.

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks   

February 22, 2023