Principles, Ethics and Rights

Gender Equity

Detailed Discussion

Current Conditions

Key Issues

Gendered Participation in the Arts

In the Western tradition of art, women artists have historically been excluded from participating in the professional domain of art and art education due to prevailing social attitudes, biases, and prejudices. While women, trans, non-binary and gender diverse artists now generally share the same legal rights and have access to the same opportunities as their cisgender male counterparts, they are still underrepresented in certain areas across the art sector. 

Women arts workers have historically been well represented in positions of arts administration, but continue to be significantly underrepresented in such positions of leadership across the cultural sector.

Representations of Gender

Stereotypical depictions of cisgendered female bodies and representations of gendered violence have a long history, especially in the Western tradition of art. It is important that contemporary artists dealing with gender and gendered content in their work consider the politics of representation and are conscious of not reproducing harmful or misogynistic depictions of women. Feminist scholar Laura Mulvey’s concept of the “male gaze” is an example of a tool helpful in understanding how a masculine and heteronormative perspective has influenced the way in which women’s bodies have been depicted in art and legitimated harmful tropes and stereotypes.  

Gender Pay Gap

As in many other industries, women artists often earn less than their male counterparts. This is for a number of reasons, including there being insufficient material support and professional development opportunities for artist mothers and parents of children, for instance family-friendly residency programs. 

In addition to broader social prejudices, stereotypes, and biases, other barriers include the lack of parental leave for casual and often part-time arts workers, insufficient childcare for working parents, and age restrictions on opportunities such as awards and residencies that may exclude artists whose careers have been interrupted by having and caring for children. These factors can make a sustained artist practice difficult while bearing and raising children.

Gendered Harassment

Gendered harassment refers to a form of discrimination often involving unwelcome conduct based on an individual's actual or perceived gender identity. The Australian Human Rights Commission states that 'unwelcome conduct is conduct that was not solicited or invited by the employee, and the employee regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive'. For more information, see the Australian Human Rights Commission's Effectively Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment: A Code of Practice for Employers resource.

While gendered harassment can occur anywhere, areas of the arts sector which operate in a relatively informal and unregulated manner can make such instances more prone to occurring. The variation in work environments across the industry may make misinterpretations of acceptable behaviour in work contexts more likely. Other attributes of the industry such as exhibition openings where alcohol is served, further blurs boundaries between work and socialising.

Trans, Non-Binary and Gender Diverse People

Given the art world has historically accounted for gender in binary terms, there is much to be done to ensure the sector is accessible to artists and artworkers who are not cisgender and may identify as trans/transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, brotherboys, sistergirls and other experiences of gender identification. 

It is important to note that gender diversity beyond a gender binary is a well understood and deeply rooted idea in many cultural contexts, such as in First Nations communities. For more information, see Trans Hub's Trans Mob resources.

Responsibilities of Organisations

Organisations have a responsibility to create a welcoming, safe, respectful and open environment in the workplace through strong workplace culture, equal opportunity policies and inclusive practices.

Women, trans, non-binary and gender diverse people should form a significant part of an organisation's governance. It is important that those in decision-making positions, such as board members, directors, CEOs and executive staff, are reflective of the broader arts community.

Professional development opportunities, insurance of equal pay, non-biased hiring practices (see Equitable Application Processes), mentorship programs, and up-to-date knowledge of relevant federal and state legislation are some of the ways that institutions can promote more equitable governance. 

Organisations also have a responsibility to:

  • conduct surveys of staff across all front facing departments regarding harassment by audiences or the public to determine safety provisions

  • provide access to childcare options outside of normal working hours and suitable spaces for breastfeeding and flexible hours to employees

  • mitigate the risk of gendered harassment by limiting alcohol consumption at work events, and implementing a Behaviour Policy 

  • provide all-gender facilities, for example all-gender infant changing or feeding spaces and bathrooms

  • ethically collect and self-report data on gender representation at regular intervals; both in terms of employees (casual, part-time, full-time, and, where possible, contractors) and gender representation in exhibition programming, see Monitoring and Evaluation below

  • complete ongoing gender pay gap analyses and promote pay transparency

  • ensure women, trans, non-binary and gender diverse artists are fairly represented in marketing and collateral material for group exhibitions

  • ensure use of titles (such as Ms, Mr or Mx) in forms and other places is optional and according to personal preference

  • embed safe practices around gender identity and pronoun use to support people in being comfortable disclosing their pronouns

  • with permission, communicate the needs of trans, non-binary and gender diverse individuals and broader trans-affirming protocols to all parties who you work with (staff, contractors, artists, sponsors etc.) 

  • ensure all staff receive regular professional development training about LGBTIQA+ inclusivity, so that staff feel confident working affirmatively with these communities

  • refer to trans and non-binary people by their chosen name at all times, regardless of their use of a different name on financial or legal documents

  • ensure complaint and grievance accountability processes are easy to access by staff and artists

Recommended Policies

Gender-equity policies are strategic documents that outline measures, policies, and targets an organisation has put in place to promote gender equity. Organisations often seek assistance from a gender-equity consultant in consulting with stakeholders, developing and implementing gender-equity policies. 

Policies may include:

  • Editorial standard for gender inclusive language: For use by staff in marketing and other public materials including in recruitment and advertising. For information see the Australian Government Style Manual

  • Childcare policy and support available: For employees and visitors to ensure equal access for parents, caregivers and children.

  • Gender Affirmation Leave: For employees.

  • Sexual harassment policy: Expectations of behaviour, a transparent process for dealing with complaints and dispute resolution for staff and any affiliated artists or contractors, see Grievance and Dispute Resolution.

  • Behaviour policy: The variation in work environments across the industry may make misinterpretations of acceptable behaviour in work contexts more likely, and other attributes of the industry such as exhibition openings serving alcohol further blur boundaries between work and socialising. Organisations can mitigate risk by establishing core professional and behavioural expectations for staff; and outline the consequences of behaviour that is not acceptable. 

Responsibilities of Artists

Artists may choose to:

  • provide pronouns, if they wish and feel safe to do so

  • ask about the gender representation statistics for spaces they may exhibit within, in order to encourage accountability

  • review an organisation’s sexual-harassment policy and report instances of discriminatory behaviour or harassment, if they feel safe to do so

  • be familiar with relevant state and federal legislation around sexual-harassment and equal opportunity

  • where relevant to their art practice, approach depictions of gendered bodies and violence with sensitivity, avoiding stereotypes

Recommendations for Agreements

Agreements should:

  • clearly state pronouns in contracts and agreements, if parties wish to state them

  • agree that the organisation will seek pre-approval by all stakeholders of any public-facing material before it is published, particularly if the content has been changed or not directly provided by whom it concerns 

  • provide necessary and stakeholder-approved content warnings for material containing gendered violence will be provided by the presenting organisation and detailed in the agreement

  • clearly outline the dispute resolution process regarding gendered harassment, including a clause for termination on such grounds

Monitoring and Evaluation

Analysing patterns in the gender identities of artists, arts workers, and other key players is a key tool in understanding how power, access, and privilege operate in the organisation and the wider industry. 

Setting up an evaluation and monitoring system is the best way to track your progress on gender equity and be accountable to your equity goals. Data collection should be ongoing and evaluations of the data should be conducted regularly to show progress over time. Organisations should collect data that is meaningful and measurable, for example: gender of staff; board members; exhibiting artists; acquisitions; and budget allocations. Include non-binary statistics even when no non-binary statistics were captured. 

A good place to start is with a benchmark audit of the organisation and organisational structure. An audit may include recording data including but not limited to: board member selection, staff hiring and retention rates, current and previous programs, audience engagement, diversity of job applicants and diversity of funding recipients. 

Organisations should maintain clear, accurate, secure and complete records of data on gender identification of artists. Templates and protocols for collecting data should be established by organisations to ensure data collection is by consent and meets legal privacy requirements.

Sector-wide reports on gender representation in the Australian art world published by independent artist-activist collective The Countess Report provide benchmark data on gender representation in exhibitions, education, art media, prizes, art collections, and organisational governance across the entire art sector.

For more information and accessible data, see The Countess Report.