Image: Part of the first all female Broadway technical team working on 2018-2019’s The Lifespan of a Fact at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54. L-R: Palmer Hefferan (sound), Jen Schriever […]
Image: Part of the first all female Broadway technical team working on 2018-2019’s The Lifespan of a Fact at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54. L-R: Palmer Hefferan (sound), Jen Schriever (lights), and Leigh Silverman (direction). Photo credit: Tess Mayer.
The Women Count report series looks at Off-Broadway hiring patterns to inform national conversations about gender parity in the American theater.
The challenge. Whose plays are being done, who is directing them, and who is being hired for theatrical off-stage roles in New York’s theaters beyond Broadway? The Women Count report series has published analyses of production credits to assess questions of gender parity in theater hiring decisions since 2014. The goal of the report series is to change the conversation from anecdotes to advocacy on behalf of female and non-binary playwrights, performers, and off-stage theater workers.
The project team. In 2012, Judith Binus began to collect production credits from major Off-Broadway theater companies accessing on-line sources, with an initial goal to hold one-on-one conversations with artistic directors and staff members to discuss their theater’s hiring trends and to inspire them to hire women. Martha Wade Steketee met Binus in 2013 while they served together on a League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) committee and proposed she might apply her research skills to the data Binus had begun to collect. A report series with some of the data trends might be useful, Steketee proposed — simple tables of theater-specific results could compare Off-Broadway theaters, and the report series could join the growing set of national data collection efforts then developing steam. (See the first Women Count report’s introduction (pages 1-2) for a summary of some of those early data efforts and the cry for more gender-focused data on theatrical productions.)
Steketee has developed all Women Count reports, drawing on her experience as a social science researcher and access to playbills and productions as a Drama Desk voter and nominator for most of the time period covered by the project’s continually evolving database. Steketee and Binus track productions announced and finally presented, and seek paper or electronic playbills with opening night production credits for all database productions, where possible. Steketee continues to conduct project analyses, and to write each Women Count report.
The project data. The project team asked about hiring parity Off-Broadway after observing that reporting often focuses on the easier-to-track (and smaller number of) Broadway productions each year. The team resolved to fill this data gap by collecting and reporting on full seasons produced by major Off-Broadway theater companies and expanding the range of hiring categories beyond playwright and director. Each Women Count report tracks 13 employing categories for each production observed: playwright, director, set designer, lighting designer. costume designer, sound designer, projection/video designer, choreographer, composer/original music, lyricist, conductor/music director, production stage manager, and stage manager/assistant stage manager.
A study “season” follows the usual New York awards season definition of May 1 through the following April 30. Project researchers assign a production to a study season based on production opening date.
Beginning with Women Count VI (May 2022), the project team reports female, nonbinary, and male credit counts as they can determine them. The team searches published credits and biographies for gender pronouns and identification for the creatives associated with the productions tracked. The team members are strong proponents of encouraging artists to make their pronoun preferences clear in bios and other sources to facilitate correct identification. The project team is committed to tracking individual identities that shift over time, and with names and gender from publicly available information. Each report represents the team’s best knowledge at that moment in time. The team constantly updates, corrects, and refines the core database with new information and errors identified.
The project reach. The Women Count report series has become part of the national conversation on gender parity in theater. In 2019, the Women Count project joined the Counting Together initiative comprised of national and regional data projects, coordinated 2019-2021 by Todd London (Dramatists Guild) and Luis Castro (American Theatre Wing). The Counting Together initiative’s evolving mission, inspired by ongoing evidence of systemic exclusion in the theater reported in multiple data projects, is to convene the member groups regularly to report findings collectively and to identify pathways to greater equity and inclusion through narratives in their multiple data reports. Beginning in 2022, Martha Wade Steketee joined Luis Castro as co-facilitator of the initiative, that remains jointly hosted by the Dramatists Guild and the Wing. In February 2022 the initiative received two inaugural Anthem Awards in the areas of DEI community engagement and awareness. Press release here and press coverage here.
The project reports. Project reports, executive summaries, and occasional special analyses are conducted at irregular intervals. Results are presented by gender (including female, nonbinary, and male) and some analyses highlight those female and nonbinary workers who are most frequently hired in each category.
Steketee, Martha Wade with Judith Binus. [edition title, edition month and year]. Women Count report series. New York, NY. https://urbanexcavations.com/women-count-report-series
WOMEN COUNT VI MAY 2022 [2019/20 AND 2021/22]
WOMEN COUNT V FEBRUARY 2020 [2014/15–2018/19]
WOMEN COUNT IV NOVEMBER 2018 [2013/14–2017/18]
WOMEN COUNT III FEBRUARY 2018 [2010/11–2016/17]
WOMEN COUNT II OCTOBER 2015 [2010/11–2014/15]
WOMEN COUNT I AUGUST 2014 [2010/11–2013/14]
Updated September 27, 2022