The fight for gender equality in Swiss art institutions

Swiss culture sector far from a haven of equality

Sophie Hunger at the Gurten Festival in Bern, 2019. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

A study commissioned by the Pro Helvetia arts council finds women are underrepresented across much of the cultural sector, especially when it comes to music.

This content was published on June 23, 2021

The study, the first of its kind, notes that “women are notably underrepresented, both at the level of strategic and artistic direction as well as on the stage and in exhibitions”, according to a statement on Wednesday by Pro Helvetia.

The study was carried out by the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Basel, after being commissioned by Pro Helvetia and the Swiss Centre for Social Research.

The researchers looked at performance art (dance and theatre), music, literature, and visual arts, and found that numbers vary widely across disciplines.

While some 55% of directors or heads of literature institutes and associations are women, in the music business “there’s not a single women with a role at such a level”.

The music sector is especially striking, the report found, especially when it comes to solo performances. Female rock, pop, or jazz musicians make up between 9% and 12% of concert performances in those genres; in classical music this climbs to 34%.

Women are also strongly underrepresented when it comes to roles in artistic direction or as creators of operatic works, which also means they win less prizes as a result. The study also found that there is a much lower presence of women in concerts and theatre performances, as well as at public readings and exhibitions.

“The results show that, when it comes to equal opportunities between men and women in the cultural sector, there is still a huge amount to be done, said Seraina Rohrer, a member of Pro Helvetia’s board. For her, this initial research need to be widened and long-term measures adopted. Pro Helvetia plans to present such a demand soon to the Federal Office of Culture.

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