Saturday, December 6, 2008


The National Endowment for the Arts has just issued Women Artists: 1990-2005 : , a 17-page study about the status of women in the arts. The title of the report is mildly deceptive, in that Women Artists really tracks the challenges faced by women across all the creative professions -- including, among other things, "actors," "writers and authors" and "announcers." Also unfortunately, "visual artists" are inexplicably lumped together in the survey into a single category with "art directors" and "animators." However, the report does make some valuable points:

* The category of "art director, visual artist or animator" is the closest of all the creative professions to achieving gender parity -- it is 47.4 percent female. For the curious, the field with the lowest concentration of women was "architect," with only 22.2 percent. By far the highest concentration of women was to be found among "dancers and choreographers," at 75.9 percent.

* The median annual earnings for women listed as "art directors, fine artists and animators" is $29,000. Median earnings are $36,000 for men in the same fields. Thus, on average, women in the visual arts earn 81 cents to a man’s dollar.

* Despite being equally represented in the field, female "art directors, fine artists and animators" are far more likely to have only part-time employment. According to the NEA’s findings, close to 40 percent of women are part-timers, as opposed to just about 20 percent of men.

* Women Artists reports that earning discrepancies increase for older women -- quite substantially so. "In 2003-2005, women artists aged 18 to 24 earned $0.95 for every $1 made by young men artists. This ratio fell to $0.78 for artists aged 35 to 44, and to $0.67 for 45-to-54-year-olds. Women artists aged 55 to 64 earned only $0.60 for every dollar earned by men artists in that age group."

* The median age of women working in the "art director, visual artist or animator" category is 41 -- five years younger than the median age for men, which is 46. Strangely, the trend among architects is the opposite: The median age for women is 38, six years younger than the median age of 44 for men. (A guess would be that this is due to the relatively recent inroads females have made into architecture, having increased their representation by nearly seven percent in the brief time span covered by Women Artists.)

* The percentage of what women artists earn relative to men varies regionally. In the report’s words, relative to what men make, "female artist earnings were highest in New York and New Hampshire (85 percent in both states), followed closely by Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, where the ratio was 84 percent."

* And yet, perhaps the quirkiest generalization from Women Artists is the following: "women artists tend to concentrate in low-population states." As percentages of the total, the number of women artists is highest in Nebraska, where it approaches 60 percent, followed by similar high concentrations in Iowa, Alaska, New Hampshire and Mississippi. The percentage of woman in the creative labor pool is lowest in California (42.6 percent), Michigan (42.9), New Jersey (42.9), Florida (43.3), Texas (44.2) and New York (45.8).


Sheree Rensel said...

Before reading the first set of statistics, I knew it wouldn't be good news. In fact, is any of this "news" at all. It is so unfortunate that visual artists were lumped in with other creative professions. This grouping doesn't really make sense to me. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Anyway even with this kind of categorization, things haven't changed all that much in decades.

namastenancy said...

We've had decades of attacks on public education and even more of a slash and burn mentality toward the arts (much less women in the arts). I'm looking for the article that Nancy Baker (aka Rebel Belle) wrote on this same topic some time back. I'm taking classes with an idea of getting my second BA in Arts Education but I am very thankful that I don't have to make my living at it. Women do come out at the bottom of the heap, don't we?

Anonymous said...

This was two years ago but nothing has changed.


namastenancy said...

Eva - thanks for the link to the Jerry Saltz article. I feel equal amounts of anger, frustration and sadness that women are still fighting the same old fight, decade in and decade out. I guess we are luckier than women in the 3rd world who have even grimmer realities to deal with but this is the good old USA - the richest (?) country on Earth. I haven't found statistics about the situation for European women; I would image that Scandinavian women have more opportunities than women in the more Southern countries but I don't know for sure. Here's a link to Nancy Baker's site. I can't find the piece in question but she writes very eloquently about the difficulties of being both a woman and a working artist. Of course, I realize that men have difficulties as well but this article is not about them.

namastenancy said...

In spite of the horrible statistics in the report, the fact that all three of us are still working artists and one of us (moi) is in her 60's shows that -however bad the odds are against us, we are still producing art.

Eva said...

On Thursday I had 2 events, back to back, which told me almost the same thing - but I am not sure I like it. Still figuring that out.

The first was a woman artist I interviewed who said that since her work was sometimes dismissed, she felt she could be more creative, more subversive - because the pressure was off. "Like a Trogan Horse" she said, which I thought really interesting ....

But I still have to wonder: why can't we just have the pressure that comes from no doubt and no underestimation? This sort of loses its charm after awhile!

The next event was this luncheon for women in leadership. The main speaker said pretty much the same thing - that she used all that underestimation to her advantage.


Anonymous said...

oops. that's trojan.