Alright, enough moping.
So remember how I said that the tough thing about talking about the issue of gender parity, the problem, wasn’t intentions, but a lack of culpability for outcomes.
In other words, how do you get people to not just think about doing the right thing but actually motivate them to do it?
Yesterday, I figured it out.
You just need some money.
You need a funding program that has nothing to do with intentions, because we all have the best intentions. What you need is a reward system that is entirely based on outcomes.
Without further ado, I give you:
SWIM PONY MASSIVELY OVERHAULS THE STATE OF WOMEN ARTISTS IN THREE YEARS AND WHO KNEW IT WOULD BE THIS FLIPPIN EASY GRANT PROGRAM
Also known as:
AWESOME LADIES GETTIN’ WHAT’S DUE (ALGWD for short)
(With support from Pew Charitable Trusts
Or maybe William Penn
Or maybe The Wyncote Foundation
Or The Knight Foundation
Really who cares, someone has to fund this, right?)
Here are my proposed guidelines:
1) The ALGWD team announces to the Philadelphia-area theater community that starting next season any company, of any size, with access to their own non-profit status or a fiscal sponsor is eligible for an award at the end of a three year period.
2) The funding awards will be made in two categories:
- $25,000 will be awarded to 5 companies with the highest percentage of women artists represented across three artistic categories (see below).
- Any company that achieves 45% female representation across all three categories is eligible to receive $10,000.
- PS – You have to hit the minimum in all three. No exceptions.
3) Female artists represented will be calculated based on a statistics over three categories:
- Number of women playwrights
- Number of women directors
- Number of women actors
4) Other rules and guidelines:
- Companies will submit their statistics and then have them validated by the grant committee in order to be eligible.
- The statistics must include all artistic output by a company.
- Artistic outputs included must be open to the public.
- A company must meet a minimum of three public works to be eligible for consideration.
- Funds are string-free. You can use them for whatever you want.
5) And maybe we could also add this as a bonus:
- A $1,000 in additional funds are available for any company that can also show an equal parity across all categories of theatrical design regardless of whether they reach the above minimums.
This means for three years there’s a looming pile of cash incentivizing the choice to bring women artists in. It’s not the only consideration, but it’s enough to help counteract a tiny bit of that un-intentional push away from a female artists in the other direction.
And happily, unlike calling someone out or making a stink, this grant doesn’t hurt anyone who decides they can’t or won’t be able to meet the gender equality minimum. You can do all the dude heavy, dude written, dude directed plays you want. It just means you’re missing out on the free money party.
Of the 12 companies I surveyed numbers on last year, a few were pretty darn close – Flashpoint, Simpatico and Azuka – but not one would have hit this minimum requirement across all three categories. But if there were $10,000 at stake, how much do you want to bet they’d tweak their selections just a tiny bit to nudge them over the line? If the next time the AD’s of these companies looked at their numbers and knew that hiring one more female director got them $10,000 do you think they’d think as hard about whether or not to do it? Do you think that the choice between a female playwright and a male one would be quite so agonizing if one picking the former meant they might be one of those companies competing for the top 5 slot?
For most companies, $25,000 or $10,000 in funds that aren’t project ear-marked would make a huge difference. That’s an entire person’s salary in some cases. That’s the budget for an entire show for the really small ones. And even if you’re a bigger dog, one where the scale you’re operating on won’t be totally transformed by this kind of cash, think about how hard you chase donors on this scale. You could just do the work you’re already doing AND save women artists from inequity while getting money handed to you.
The way I see it there are something on the order of 30 – 40 companies in Philly and the surrounding areas who’d be eligible. If I had to guess, right now, there are probably only a handful – 5 maybe – that potentially meet those guidelines already. From rough estimation it seems like about half those companies could probably hit those numbers with just a bit of effort to add a few female directors or playwrights or plays with more female roles. If I were a betting woman, I’d guess the same half of those 30 – 40 would come out the other side of three years with hands outstretched for their $10,000.
Think about the impact that would make in this community:
- 5 companies at the top x $25,000 = $125,000
- ~16 more companies at the minimum x $10,000 = $160,000
- ~15 that also hit the design minimum x $1,000 = $15,000
This is really not that much money.
Think about that Philly funders… For a single upper limit Pew organizational project grant:
- You could have an incredibly concrete means to measure the impact of your efforts by surveying the stats on gender before the award period and after.
- You could incentivize not promises or discussions but measurable, quantifiable outcomes.
- You could reward those companies already employing positive gender parity practices.
- You could send a message that your organization cares deeply about the status of women artists and is able to take steps to do something about it.
- You could create an art-making environment in Philadelphia that can be nationally recognized as the most female friendly in the country.
- You could massively shift everything about the way this city works for women artists.
No hemming or hawing. No yelling or fighting. No pipelining. No apologies for what we intended to do but couldn’t quite make happen. Just three years to make it happen or not.
Some folks will ask you for a whole new system and ten years or more to implement it.
I’m just asking for three years and $300,000.
Let’s do it now Philly before some other city snatches up our good idea.
PS – Shout out to Brad Wrenn who dreamed this up in the car with me when I was having a shitty morning yesterday.