Gender Gaps in the Public and Live Events Industry


16 Aug 2021



Written By Staff Writer



Festivals, concerts and cultural events may be for everyone, but even Australia’s public events sector still needs to work on gender equality in 2021. From lack of representation to the gender pay gap and general discrimination, females have a lot on their plate when it comes to flourishing in their careers. And while the tide on female inequality is slowly turning, we’re still a long way from closing the crevice.

The roots of gender inequality began to grow around 8,000 years ago according to a study published in the European Journal of Archaeology. The cultural practice of ‘valuing men over women’ arose around the same time as agriculture kicked off – and now, thousands of years later in the era of GMO and drone-farming, women are still dealing with the repercussions.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) latest gender pay gap report, every single industry in Australia still has a pay gap that favours men. The data shows that women earn on average $25,534 less than men every single year. In 2017, ‘Arts and Recreation Services’ ranked 8th for its average gender pay gap according to Triple M. It’s hard to tell exactly what this means for the public events industry specifically, as there doesn’t appear to have been a significant study into the sector’s gender-based salaries and statistics to date.

Gender inequality can also be found in female representation, as well as female representation in key and leading positions. In great news for the arts sector, the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the proportion of male (50.2%) and female (49.8%) representation is almost 50/50. Nice! Where this gets a little blurry though is when we zoom in on female leadership.

While we know, thanks to the WGEA, that women are underrepresented in leadership roles across almost every industry in Australia, there’s still not enough statistics on the public and live events sector. Across the country though, while females make up half of our nation’s employees, women enjoy only 32.5% of key management positions. Only 28.1% of directors and 18.3% of CEOs are women.

Gender-equality activist and speaker Lucy Bloom recognises that shifting women into leadership positions is key.

“You have to intentionally include women in all aspects of leadership, otherwise they are unintentionally excluded. Gender bias is alive and well. We all have to actively include women for better balance,” Bloom said.

While gender bias is absolutely alive and well, female representation in the public events industry wouldn’t necessarily reflect the statistics we see across industries like finance, agriculture and real estate.

Across the sector, female representation appears extremely varied. Although there’s not a whole lot of data to support this, women undoubtedly appear to be making their mark in council, arts and cultural organisations.

When it comes to other historically male-dominated micro-sectors like concert touring and festivals – that may involve more physical roles like sound and lighting technicians – women are more typically found working behind the scenes in administration or support roles. A 2017 study into gender inequality in the music industry by the University of Sydney’s Women, Work and Leadership Group backs this up, finding that males ‘predominantly dominated key decision-making roles in the industry’.

A similar US study into ‘meeting, convention and event planners’ found that while the industry is ‘70% women powered’, only 20% of women were in key and leadership positions.

But representation is not the only symbol of gender inequality in the workplace: sexual harassment and discrimation are both rife, too. Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, says that sexual harrassment is prevalent across all industries in the country, with women and young people at the highest risk.

A 2017 UK meetings and events industry report found that 20% of females felt they’d ‘personally experienced discrimination in their careers’. Around 70% of female respondents also thought that ‘traditional bias’ was the main barrier to women flourishing within the events sector.

Even though statistics on gender inequality in the workplace are slowly changing, it’s simply not enough to hire more women – it’s not even enough to shift more women into key roles. Real change can only be created by moving gender inequality into our own personal orbits. Many of us perpetuate gender stereotypes and gender inequality without being aware of it – so self-education is a step we can all take to close the gap. If we want to see a public events sector that truly supports, encourages and listens to women from all walks of life, we all need to improve our understanding of it and get up close and personal to the tangible action that we can take.

So how can we do that? While gender equality in the workplace certainly doesn’t end with hiring more women, organisational changes like this are definitely the beginning. Gender diversity needs to be front and centre – it almost needs to be treated as one of the non-negotiable business strategies. The public events sector is unique in its malleability: organisational changes are at their fingertips. Maybe you’ve noticed key roles handed to your male counterparts when a female colleague was more suited to the job? Or maybe you’re aware of female colleagues who missed out on opportunities because of the lack of a flexible work schedule? Whatever organisational changes need to be made, you have the power to start the ripple.

Secondly, cultural changes need to be made in order to bridge the gender equality crevice. Inclusivity and empowerment is key, so rallying for a more well-rounded workplace culture could make a world of difference to your female colleagues. Cultural changes also need to incorporate unlearning gender biases and stereotypes. For example, men have historically dominated sectors like concert touring and festivals because it can involve heavy-lifting and physical work when you’re coming up through the ranks – but women are more than capable of doing anything a man can do and there are, and can be, multiple different pathways into leadership roles too. While cultural changes are vital, they can take a long time to find their feet in the workplace.

Safe Work Australia has released 4 infographics that you can download here to use towards meeting WHS duties in the workplace.

The other way you can fight for gender equality in your workplace is to keep politics in conversation. It may not sound sexy, but staying vocal on political issues like the gender pay gap is a great way to speed up the process of gender equality in your work environment.

While our (limited) statistics for the public and live events sector do look admirable compared to other industries across Australia, women working across the events space still deserve a leg up. For all of the entertainment, joy and freedom that women in events have given us, it’s time to hyper-focus on finding actionable solutions to close the gender equality gap for good. Together. 

All Photos: Unsplash


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