Thank you for the opportunity to share my views with you today. I commend the standing committee for looking into the issues of gender parity in arts and cultural organizations.
I'll give you little background on me. I run an investment management company in Toronto and have been involved as a board volunteer with social service and arts organizations since the 1990s. I've been on the Soulpepper Theatre Company board since 2011, was appointed as the chair-elect last November, and took over officially this February.
Personally, I have experienced no barriers in joining boards, but I am president of a charitable foundation that happens to donate a fair amount of money in the province of Ontario, particularly to arts organizations, so the organizations like to try to keep me and others like me engaged. It's a perspective that's different from other people's.
I do find that in terms of lack of inclusion it's worse in the corporate world. I think the arts and cultural sector is ahead of other industries in terms of gender diversity. For arts boards in particular, I don't see gender diversity as the main issue. It's more an issue of diversity in general, more economic and ethnic diversity.
Volunteers are almost by definition persons of privilege, people who have both spare time and spare money, so that tends to focus the pool of potential directors when boards are seeking new members. To me, diversity of experience and perspective is what is most important for any board, whether it's in the arts sector or a corporate board. While adding women to a male-dominated board can add some diversity, if all those women have the same socio-economic background, it's not really going to broaden the perspective of the board.
Personally, I don't believe in quotas. I feel they are paternalistic and can result in tokenism, which in my opinion is actually worse than no representation. “Box-ticking” doesn't mean inclusion. Quotas can result in resentment on the part of men and doubt on the part of women if they feel they've been added to a board only because they are female. Funders in the arts and culture sector can make it known that diversity is important by virtue of questions in the applications for funding.
I also feel that women need more encouragement to put themselves forward. Gender parity and pay equity in the corporate world would go a long way to putting women on an even footing with men financially, and things like affordable child care could help with time constraints, because, really, it's money and time that people need to be board volunteers. I'm sure the Liberal Party spent a great deal of time on encouraging the women who form part of the gender-balanced cabinet in the lead-up before 2015, so perhaps some lessons could be learned there.
I also suggest that the same activity is required to ensure greater ethnic diversity on arts boards among arts patrons and audiences. Board mentors can be helpful in assisting new board members in acclimatizing to the culture of a particular organization and the board.
In terms of arts leadership, it seems to be happening a little bit on its own. Search committees are all looking for female candidates.
Each artistic discipline is different. Performing arts organizations have a particularly strong history of women in administrative leadership roles and as volunteers on small and mid-sized boards. As an example, Soulpepper is doing a search for an executive director, and we have 12 people on our long list, five of whom are women.
However, there is more of an issue on the artistic leadership front, specifically in the artistic director role. I think it stems from structural issues in Canada. There are thousands of small organizations spread across the country, only a handful of organizations of scale, and not even many mid-sized organizations, so it's hard for people to gain the experience to move from a small organization to manage a larger one.
People often need to go to other countries to gain that experience, and you hear about a lot of arts boards that end up hiring someone who's non-Canadian because they weren't able to find a Canadian with the skills that are needed. Search committees all want women on the their short list, but there are not a lot of women who have had the relevant experience in Canada because there are just not that many organizations to provide it.
At Soulpepper specifically, we haven't had any issues in recruiting women to the Soulpepper board, but we do need a greater ethnic diversity, and we need to add a younger perspective. The board members all seem to be aging at the same pace.
A lot of arts boards expect people who become board members to become significant donors as well, and that can be a barrier. At Soulpepper, we have a low dollar value of what's expected to be raised or gathered, but in fact we're willing to waive that expectation if there's a potential board member who would be an excellent addition to the board but isn't able to do that financially.
Currently, the Soulpepper Theatre board is 36% female, but 57% of the board leadership roles are held by women, including me as chair, one of two co-chairs, the chair of the governance and nominating committee, and one of the two co-chairs of the human resources committee.
The governance and nominating committee has identified diversity and inclusion as a priority and has committed to achieving gender parity on the board by 2020. Our HR committee is working with KPMG on a diversity and inclusion assessment of the organization. At present, 63% of the senior management staff is female.
Within Soulpepper, the trend is definitely positive. In 2017, Soulpepper issued contracts with 350 individual artists, and 47% of those were women. Over the past 10 years, that ratio has actually hovered between the 45% and 50% range. However, if we look at female artists in leadership roles, such as director or playwright, that number is lower. There is still work to be done, although we're on the right track. In 2011, only 13% of our shows were directed by women. In 2018, of our announced programming to date, which takes us to October, 58% of the shows are directed by women, including the three that are presently on stage. In 2011 only 25% of our resident artists were women, and in 2018 it's 45%.
Perhaps the most important way that we can address the gender diversity issue and diversity in general is by looking to the future. Soulpepper runs what we call the “Soulpepper Academy”, which is a paid residency theatre training program. It plays an important national role in nurturing the next generation of leadership. Over the past decade, we've graduated 53 artists who have gone on to meaningful and impactful careers, 54% of them women, including actors and also producers, designers, directors, and playwrights. In our most recent academy, 75% were women.
We have some suggestions.
One is that we all continue work to educate people on the importance of the arts and culture sector and to explain the economic argument for it, as well as the significant employment it provides and the spinoff economic benefits, so that people understand why it's worthy of continued support.
Next, more training and education programs would be helpful to address the structural issues across the country.
As well, providing scholarships to enable people to study and gain experience abroad would be very helpful, because arts leadership really is a global market and recruiters do look to see where people have received their training.
Also helpful would be financial support for diverse projects. Arts organizations may not be willing to take a financial risk on a project that's not really aligned with their historical presentations, but organizations do need to showcase work from diverse communities in order to encourage people from those communities to come to the organizations and then ultimately join the board.
I have just a couple of other thoughts.
Bill C-25 requirements for the for-profit corporations could be applied to not-for-profit corporations as well, to ensure some transparency in women and compensation.
Finally, it might be helpful if the Not-for-profit Corporations Act could be amended so that boards would be able to provide a small honorarium to the board members, which would help with the feasibility for people from marginalized communities to participate.