How many women do THIS on Broadway?

There has been a lot of conversation in the past few years about the disproportionate number of women writers on Broadway, women directors on Broadway, and even strong central female characters on Broadway.

(And a lot of this discussion has happened on my own podcast:  Just listen to Jeanine Tesori, Lynne Meadow and Lynn Ahrens talk about the subject.)

Since like-attracts-like, one of the greatest lessons I got about this subject was from Lynn Ahrens, who said “Ken, you’re a guy . . . whether you know it or not, you may feel naturally inclined to go to another guy, especially if the biggest pool of applicants are men.  So before you make a decision about staffing any position, just take another beat to set aside any habitual instinct and consider anyone and everyone for the job.”

Pretty amazing advice, don’t you think?

This got me to thinking about the like-attracts-like concept.  I’ve written about a similar phenomenon before, in this blog about how to get more stories about people of color on our stages (which involves getting more writers of color opportunities to write those stories).

So back to how to get more women directors, more women writers, etc. represented on Broadway.

I’m not sure I have the answer, but I can tell you for sure what one of the problems is.

I had my research team (led by my Associate Producer Valerie (yes, a female) Novakoff) dig into the trenches of and they came back with this statistic.

In the last 5 years, only 28.46% of all Broadway commercial plays or musicals had female Lead Producers.

Although this is better than the 6.4% of CEOs that are women on the Fortune 500, it’s still tremendously disappointing.

Not only because we need more equality in the folks leading shows, but because if there were more women Lead Producing shows, there would, I’d bet, be more women directors, more women writers and more female stories on Broadway.

Now, that’s the easy part.

The hard part is, as always, what to do with the data once we have it.

Do we offer young Associate Producer scholarships . . . giving qualified applicants the title credit without requiring a money-raise to get them started?

Do we ask high schools around the country to assign a Producer to their high school musicals, and encourage them to choose a young woman?

How do we leverage the accomplishment of that 28.46%?

What are your ideas on how we level the producing field?

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  • Andrew Husmann says:

    I’d say the idea of offering young women Associate Producer scholarships sounds interesting. What specifically would be their job description that goes with that title?…if their not raising money.

  • Providing developmental opportunities for female producers is certainly important. But publicizing the success of shows led by female producers and/or involving a strong proportion of women in key positions might help make it more likely not only that more women will become producers but also that male producers will actually “take another beat” in their own hiring decisions. I’m currently on the producing team for “Latin History for Morons” led by a tenacious Nelle Nugent which recently recouped in just 15 weeks with only 7 performances per week, thank you very much. And I’m the Executive Producer of “The Chekhov Dreams”, in a critically acclaimed short run that ends this Saturday at the Beckett at Theatre Row, with a team that is 75% female, including the director, lighting designer, costume designer and two producers. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back about this. Simply making the point that more people need to know about this sort of thing.

  • Emma Goldman-Sherman says:

    I love the idea of helping younger women. It is important to also understand that changing a system is different from helping individuals. (Look at African-Americans – there are plenty who have certain privileges and many more who live under a system. . . ) That’s why theatre has a big role to play because theatre changes how people think about and feel about how our culture functions. This is why it is so important to check out the work of women playwrights (yes, I am one). Come see MAN & WIFE Friday 3/9 at 3pm in an in-house presentation at New Circle, 140 W 44.

  • Jana Shea says:

    Ken and Valerie- Thanks for doing this important research and giving us our first real statistic to highlight this inequity even though it has been plain to see for all of us on Broadway that we are very light on female talent in all areas of theatrical teams. Here’s to moving the needle forward and using some of your suggestions in all hiring decisions.

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