Donne – Women in Music Releases Latest Gender Gap Report

Donne – Women in Music has released its latest research, drawn from an analysis of the 2021-2022 season programs of 111 orchestras in 31 countries. The Equality and Diversity in the Global Directory The report covered the stage performances of major orchestras around the world and revealed that 92.3% of works were written by male composers, 87.7% of whom were white. This is only a slight improvement over 20182019 season, where 97.7% of the works were made by men. This year’s results are based on a review of internationally renowned orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra; the Los Angeles, New York, Berlin and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras; and the Australian Symphony Orchestras of Adelaide, Melbourne, Queensland and Sydney.

Give – Women in Music. Photo provided.

Internationally, out of 20,400 scheduled performances, only 7.7% of scheduled works were composed by women, of which 5.5% were white. The report does, however, acknowledge a slight increase from last year’s research, which found that for every 20 performances by a male composer, only one work by a woman was performed.

“The reality is that classical music is part of our daily lives, not only in concert halls, but also in theater productions, film soundtracks, games, commercial advertising and online media. The inequality and lack of diversity that our data demonstrates in classical music reflects the lack of opportunity that women face in all musical genres,” says Gabriella Di Laccio, Founder and Director of Donne – Women in Music.

Of the global repertoire, 27.5% was produced by just 10 male composers, including Mozart, Brahms, Dvořák, Stravinsky and Strauss. Nearly 5% of the pieces programmed were composed by Beethoven, and for every piece programmed by a black composer, a piece by Tchaikovsky was performed.

In Australia, the Melbourne Symphony’s Orchestra 2021 season led the country in the representation of women in its programming, with 23% of its scheduled works written by female composers; with 7% women of color; and 10% of its overall repertoire by people of color. Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is close behind, with 22% of its 2021 lineup featuring female composers.

Only 6.3% of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s program was made up of female composers, with no work by women of color included in its entire 2021 programme, while the Queensland Symphony Orchestra lacked the most diversity, with nearly 96% of a white man’s parts. composers and only 1% of its works written by women. However, QSO featured the largest number of non-binary composers of any Australian orchestra, at 2% of its scheduled repertoire; neither Sydney nor Adelaide featured non-binary composers.

MSO was the only orchestra to surpass a 2.5% representation of composers of color in its 2021 season.

In a 2018 interview with limelight, Di Laccio explained how she “struggled to understand why these women were ignored” for so long.

“I couldn’t think of a reasonable reason for such a dramatic disparity. We’ve clearly moved past thinking that there aren’t enough female songwriters and there isn’t enough music to be played.

To combat both gender disparity and notions of a lack of music composed by women, Donne curated The Big List, which since its inception in 2018 has amassed an astonishing collection of 5,000 female composers and their works. It has also focused on recordings by female composers, to promote greater accessibility and dissemination of their works.

The upcoming 2023 season for orchestras across Australia, however, is shaping up to be much brighter in terms of tackling gender inequality. Sixty percent of the works commissioned by the OSM for its 2023 season are by female composers, while half of the commissions for the OSM 2020 50 marching bands were made by women and will be broadcast until the end of this year.

Despite the “disappointing” figures in this year’s report, Di Laccio still finds strength and hope in the future of orchestral programming, even in its slow progress towards gender and racial equality.

“This research aims to raise awareness and open conversations to see how together we can make a difference. By promoting equality and diversity in the music industry, we can create a more vibrant and inspiring music landscape for all to enjoy. I truly believe that together we can make much faster progress and have a real positive impact for equality and diversity in music.


Full Equality and Diversity in the Global Directory report from Donne – Women in Music can be found here.

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