This is a working document highlighting the inequality of Women of Colour in the Arts and various sectors. We hope to learn from these statistics and reports and learn how to grow and strengthen our cultural sector.

These statistics are important to understand where the inequalities are. Where are we right now in 2019, what type of research has occurred previously and where can we go from here?

The Future is you and me is one of many programs that is attempting to highlight the gender and racial inequality in this sector. But there’s so much more work to do. These are just a few of the inequalities in the arts sector, and this list is growing:

LightShed by Liz Magor – Photo credit Liz Magor

LightShed by Liz Magor – Photo credit Liz Magor

Public Art in canada

A survey of 120 commissions of Vancouver’s public art from 2010-2016 states that public art works are 62% are by men, 30% by women, in Montreal from 2001 and 2015 only 35% of all public art projects in Montreal went to women, in Toronto only 20% of city owned public memorials depict women.

Source: Canadian Art, Public Art: It’s (Still) A Man’s World, August 2016

visual art in canada

Solo exhibitions surveyed from 2013-2016 state only 3% of solo exhibitions were by women of colour in galleries across Canada, which includes

  • 8% of work by women of colour artists at Vancouver Art Gallery,  

  • 9% by women of colour at Art Gallery of Alberta,

  • 15% by women of colour artists at Art Gallery of Ontario and

  • 0% by women of colour artists at The Rooms (Newfoundland and Labrador), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatchewan), Art Gallery of Ontario, Musee D’Art Contemporain De Montreal, Beaverbrook Art Gallery (New Brunswick), and National Gallery of Canada

    Example: MAWA - Mentoring for Women’s Art (Winnipeg)

    Source: Canadian Art, Canada’s Galleries Fall Short: The Not-So Great White North, April 2015

Divya Mehra,  We don’t stand in line, borrowed shoes hurt your feet OR To India and back: Why we must not give up , 2014. Courtesy Georgia Scherman Projects.

Divya Mehra, We don’t stand in line, borrowed shoes hurt your feet OR To India and back: Why we must not give up, 2014. Courtesy Georgia Scherman Projects.

Portrait of  SPUN , performed at Arcola Theatre, June 2018 by Rabiah Hussain, Directed by Richard Speir

Portrait of SPUN, performed at Arcola Theatre, June 2018 by Rabiah Hussain, Directed by Richard Speir

theatre in canada

According to Equity in Theatre report from 2015, women form 50% of Playwrights Guild of Canada’s membership, but they do not account for even one quarter of the nation’s produced playwrights (the numbers for women of colour are lower yet). women accounted for 33% of artistic directors, 34% of directors, and 27% of produced playwrights (ii). The numbers were much worse for people of colour, who only comprised 11% of artistic director positions (6% women and 5% men) and 9% of produced playwrights (4% women and 5% men) (ii).

Example: Imago Artista Program for young women in theatre
Example: 49 Plays by Women of Colour (that you can Program tomorrow)

Source: Equity in Theatre, Achieving Equity in Canadian Theatre: A Report with Best Practice Recommendations, April 2015

Film in Canada

A recent report by Women in View shows that of 139 feature films released in 2010 and 2011 in Canada, women comprise less than 20% of the directors and 21% of the screenwriters.

By 2012, the income gap widened again, with females in the actor category earning a mere 83% of what male performers earned on average in the same category, over the same period.
Example: Women in Film and TV

Source: Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen Report, Focus on Women 2013

The Status of Women in the Canadian Arts

The Ontario Arts Council developed a study on Women in the Arts and a large inequality was “Career and industry recognition” --  

“Across all sectors, women’s artistic and creative outputs receive significantly less public exposure than those of men. The systemic and relative (in) visibility of women’s artistic works indicates that women, as a group, experience gender-based disadvantage in the arts and cultural industries overall. Key indicators such as the gendered profile of productions, exhibitions and awards demonstrate that the dissemination of women’s creative works, and recognition of the significance of women’s artistic achievements, is not of equal status to that of their male peers.

But there were “Limitations to the study”

As a body of research, there is insufficient data on the diversity of women within the arts and cultural workforce. We acknowledge that the report fails to address important axes of intersectionality that inform the gendered experiences of artists and cultural workers in their professional careers, including but not limited to racialization, linguistic diversity, age, sexuality, and ability.”

What many of these statistics is the intersectionality between race and gender that is included in those disciplines, as explained in the above paragraph about limitations.

We can see that there is an invisibility for women of colour in these arts disciplines. But women make up 50% of our population and at the same time, 50% of “visible minority” population in Vancouver.

Source: The Status of Women in the Canadian Arts and Cultural Industries, Research Review 2010-2018, Prepared for the Ontario Arts Council, August 2018

Women of Colour Report

One study based in the UK reviewed women of colour discrimination in the theatre touring landscape

This research paper was commissioned by King’s College of London in Collaboration with Tara Arts and Black Theatre Live with the aim being to research issues and challenges in relation to discrimination of women and ethnic minorities in the theatre touring landscape in the UK.

And within the report it stated that there were barriers for Women of colour and “the findings also confirmed that challenges, opportunities and future prospects existed for women and women from ethnic minorities in the development of these companies, which were related to the following issues:


  1. Isolation: Due to the male-dominated working environment, social networks to secure future work can represent a challenge for women. Additionally a lack of family and partner support can adversely affect the finance available for female creatives.

    Equally, isolation due to absence during maternity leave was also mentioned as presenting a challenge to getting into work again.

  2. Age: For older females, it was harder to secure parts in theatre, due a lack of parts written for mature female actors. However, this can motivate females to become leaders in the field and to create their own women-led companies.

  3. Education: There is a belief that education is a necessity because it indicates skill and qualification. However, for women this can present time and funding challenges

  4. Funding: Independent funding must be raised by the company themselves by negotiating deals with theatre venues, which tend to be male dominated. Furthermore funding from ACE requires the company to provide evidence of external support and records of accomplishment, which can be challenging.

  5. Confidence: A lack of confidence at certain points in a woman’s career was mentioned, which inhibits women’s ability to voice opinions and communicate executive decisions.

  6. Role Models: There seems to be a lack of female Role Model leaders in the industry.

  7. Collaboration: Collaboration amongst women can become a challenge if there is a judgemental atmosphere within the company. Additionally, goodwill was regarded as more important for females working in a male dominated industry.