Friday 20 September 2013

Women on board?

Men and Women conductors
With all the talk of women on the podium and the shortage of women conductors in significant posts, I thought that it would be interesting to look at the ratio of women in the orchestral world. Not simply counting how many women players there are, but also how many women are on the board. The results of my little survey, whilst by no means comprehensive or even consistent, are quite suggestive. I gleaned the results from concert programmes and from the internet, so inevitably figures will change.

Looking at London based orchestras and large period instrument ensembles, the percentage of women players is consistently high, generally sitting between 30 and 50 percent. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment scored the highest with 55% women in their 2012 Messiah performances, with the London Symphony Orchestra lowest at 30% and other groups sitting between.

When we look at the board and trustees, things are more varied but less welcome. Many boards of directors seem to have just a small group of women on them. Of the major London orchestras, the London Philharmonic Orchestra scores best with 5 (out of 18) women on its board, though all 7 player directors are men. On the London Philharmonic Orchestra Advisory Council there are just 3 women (out of 13).

The London Symphony Orchestra has 2 women (out of 13) on its board and 4 women (out of 12) on the player committee. The Philharmonia has 2 women (out of 13) on its council of management and one woman (out of 16) on the Philharmonia Trust. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has just one woman (out of 10) on its board.

Moving to the period instrument ensembles, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has 4 women (out of 12) on its board. This is the best, the remainder (English Concert, Academy of Ancient Music and Gabrieli) have just a single woman.

Now these figures are not conclusive, just a quick sampling of the waters. But they suggest that women are in shorter supply in the higher reaches of orchestral boards and councils, and that an ensemble's high percentage of women amongst the players will not necessarily be reflected in the number of women higher up.

You can, of course, argue that many factors govern the engagement of women conductors, but an organisation's board sets the general tone for management style and structure and their influence should not be ignored. Perhaps, instead of worrying about women on the podium we should be worrying more about women in the board rooms.

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