Gender and orchestras – another datapoint

A fascinating article in the latest edition of Allegro, the official publication of Local 802 (NYC), adds some more data to the subject of gender balance in orchestras:

Each year for Women’s History Month we crunch the numbers to see how our male and female members are represented on various contracts. The data below is for the period Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009. You’ll see, for instance, that in 2009 there were 1,064 men listed on Broadway contracts as compared to 330 women. We find that all of the male/female percentages have stayed about the same since the last time we ran the numbers.

Male: 6,666 (77%)
Female: 2,016 (23%)

(chairs & subs)
Male: 1,064 (76%)
Female: 330 (24%)

Male: 924 (79%)
Female: 233 (20%)
Unknown: 12 (1%)

(chairs & subs)
Male: 541 (60%)
Female: 345 (38%)
Unknown: 12 (2%)

(chairs & subs)
Male: 412 (55%)
Female: 341 (45%)

Male: 3,748 (78%)
Female: 811 (17%)
Unknown: 269 (5%)

While in no category is there a 50/50 balance between men and women, the closest two categories to gender parity are “Steady Classical Engagements” (most of which are the Lincoln Center orchestras) and “Freelance Classical Engagements.” The fact that the gender balance is closer to parity in the latter may be due to the turnover in that group being higher, thus erasing whatever effects discrimination might have had on hiring for permanent positions in the past.

The striking discrepancy between the two classical categories and the rest suggests that the work that has been done over the years to combat gender discrimination in our field (screened auditions in particular) have had an effect on the perception of women workers amongst those making hiring decisions, even when there is no screen.

That’s good news for the field.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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