Actors’ Equity Association Releases Latest Report on Diversity and Inclusion Hiring Biases

Actors’ Equity Association, the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and theater managers, released the union’s third report on diversity and inclusion hiring bias, tracking demographics on how which its members are hired for acting and stage management work, and how much they were paid in 2020.

“2020 was obviously an outlier year; our industry was among the hardest hit by COVID, and work weeks were nowhere near the norm. But 2020 was also the year in which CEOs line of theater across the country have been loudly promising to do better, so we felt it was important to continue our work tracking hiring bias,” said Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association: “We are disappointed with the reality of the data: while there has been incremental progress here and there in 2020, the theater has failed to deliver on its promise of diverse and inclusive hiring. Equity has made fighting inequality in the industry, but we can’t do this job alone. We call on everyone who makes hiring and compensation decisions in theater to demonstrate their commitment through their actions as well as their words.

This study is the second since Equity began publishing this series annually, making it the first to document a single year in the theater industry. While 2020 was a year of historically low theater jobs, there is still data representing thousands of union jobs for actors and stage managers. In reviewing this data, Equity staff found that once again, there are nationwide gaps in the theater industry when it comes to job opportunities and compensation. While these reports showed modest year-over-year improvements, they continued to be slow and inconsistent.

The full report is available to read here.

Key findings for 2020 include:

While men and women tend to find employment in roughly equal numbers nationwide, men tend to earn more than women for the same amount of work, and even more than non-binary members.

The percentage of contracts going to members of color increased slightly between 2016-2019 and 2020, from 21.50% to 24.77%.

Nationally colored members earned an average of 91.80% of what white members earned per week.

Stage manager jobs continue to be filled most often by white workers, and significant pay gaps persist by both race and gender.

Members with disabilities, transgender or over the age of 65 tend to earn less than the industry average.

“Equity can’t control who employers choose to hire, but we can — and should — be candid about the inequality we see,” said Bliss Griffin, Equity’s diversity and inclusion strategist. “We’ve been tracking this data since 2013 and still see only marginal improvement. The stakes for this industry are higher than ever, but the response to this crisis remains far too slow.”

Andrew B. Reiter