Media Releases

New research on gender pay gap shows ‘triple penalty’ for artists based on gender and cultural background

The Australia Council has today released a summary of research that examines the role of culture in the gender pay gap for artists.  

The report Culture and the Gender Pay Gap for Australian Artist was prepared by David Throsby, Katya Petetskaya and Sunni Y. Shin from Macquarie University. 

It builds on previous research which showed the gender pay gap in the arts was higher than that of the overall workforce at the time. 

The latest research shows female artists with a first language other than English experience even greater levels of disadvantage in the remuneration they receive for their creative work. 

The report also examined the gender pay gap in remote First Nations communities. Interestingly researchers found that while First Nations artists in remote communities earn less than other artists overall, the gender pay gap does not appear to be evident in those communities. 

Australia Council Executive Director Strategic Development and Partnerships Georgie McClean said:  

“Australian women are highly involved in arts, often spending more time than their male counterparts on creative practice. Despite this, female artists continue to earn less than men – in fact, the pay gap in the arts is almost double the pay gap in other industries. This research also highlights that women who speak a first language other than English are further disadvantaged: they suffer a ‘triple penalty’ in creative earnings.   

These are systemic issues. It is not that women’s creative work, including that which draws on a range of cultural connections, is in any way less valuable. We encourage organisations to draw from the insights outlined in this report to ensure that all our creative talents are valued and to inform strategies to ensure fair remuneration for female artists across all demographics.” 

Key insights:  

  • The gender pay gap in the arts is higher than that of the overall workforce. The most recent comprehensive data on artists’ overall incomes showed female artists earned 25% less than their male counterparts (compared to a workforce pay gap of 16% at the same time). Women also earned almost 30% less from their creative work. 
  • Female artists with a first language other than English appear to experience a ‘triple income penalty’ compared to the rest of the working population, based on the fact they are (1) artists, (2) from a non-English speaking background, and (3) female. 
    • Female artists with a first language other than English earned less for their creative work than other demographic groups, including:

      • 47% less than male artists with a first language other than English, despite dedicating more time to their artistic practice 
      • 29% less than female artists with English as a first language 
    • These women experienced also a greater income disadvantage than male artists with a first language other than English (who experienced only 3% less than male artists with English as a first language).

    • Despite the income disadvantages, three in five women artists who identified as having a first language other than English thought their background had a positive impact on their artistic practice (63%) with only 16% thinking it had a negative impact.
  • While First Nations artists in remote communities earn less than other artists overall, the gender pay gap does not appear to be evident in those communities, suggesting there are specific systemic issues for artists working in cities and regions.

The Australia Council acknowledges the language around gender is complex and evolving. The terms male and female are used in the report to reflect the language used in collection of the data. We will continue to engage in dialogue as terminology and evaluation methods evolve.  

Read the Australia Council summary and full report on our website. 

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