Hold On. Diversity and Managing in the Arts
This study explores the workforce in arts management: who gets in, who gets ahead and how, and what needs to happen to advance greater diversity (with a focus on ethnicity, socio-economic background and gender). A collaboration between Inc Arts UK and the Bridge Group, made possible by support from Arts Council England.
We began this research, led by the Bridge Group, in March 2020 during the week that the pandemic triggered the initial lockdown in the UK. Through analysis of survey responses from over 500 people and sixty hours of interviews, we capture the experiences of those in the arts management workforce at a time when many organisations face existential challenges. We place these in the context of a review of relevant published work.
Management in the arts sector has received little attention, and these roles can often be conflated with the more creative and craft roles in the sector. From the management community across the UK, we hear wide-ranging opinions – from optimism to despair. The stark findings from the quantitative data, and the experiences of interviewees, demand urgent action.
The survey and interview findings highlight many familiar themes. The arts management workforce is deeply unrepresentative of the wider population and where greater diversity exists, it is concentrated in public-facing roles - which often serves to makes the sector seem more diverse than it actually is. Entry-level, casual, front of house and public-facing roles have been the first major casualties of CV-19; and for many organisations these are roles where much of their diverse workforce are found.
In the UK we have a long tradition of maintaining structural inequalities, while simultaneously wringing our hands about it. What is stopping systemic change from happening, and for incremental change to be embedded? Overwhelmingly it is the widespread and sustained adherence to established hierarchies and structures. The persistent retention of power is driven by fear, and a lack of imagination: a fear of losing relevance, status, incomes – considerations that all can relate to. Imagination takes courage: and right now, imagination is what is required of all global citizens.
Clarity can be found in many of the practical recommendations outlined here. We recommend that the sector lobby for changes to the Equality Act and its enforcement; and that all organisations improve their practices in relation to recruitment and progression. More robust data collection will contribute to the latter and will also deliver better understanding, challenge and accountability in the sector. These actions require minimal resource at most.
The sector is at an important point of inflexion. It is the perfect time to experiment with radically different strategies for employment, progression and retention in the sector. Our recommendations are inclusive: it’s vital that the knowledge held by those within the existing hierarchy is retained, and that the legacy of current leaders is recognised and valued.
Director, Inc Arts