Actors’ Equity Association Releases Second-Ever Diversity and Inclusion Report

New York-- Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, has released the union’s second-ever diversity and inclusion report, tracking the demographics of how its members are hired for acting and stage management work, and how much they were paid from the years 2016-2019.  

“Moving forward, Equity intends to publish a diversity report on an annual basis to hold ourselves and the entire industry accountable,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “It is our duty to be part of the solution, to work to tear down barriers and rebuild a structure that is truly inclusive.” 

In short, there has been modest improvement since the 2017 study -- meaning that there has been more equitable distribution of contracts and earnings -- but most improvements have been extremely gradual, inconsistent and not enough to change longtime problems in the industry. 

The study also found that – once again – hiring bias is not just a problem of who gets a contract, but how much they are paid. As in the previous study, when workers from marginalized groups actually do earn a contract, they are often paid less than their white male counterparts because white men more frequently are able to receive additional overscale pay beyond the contractual minimum salary. Additional highlights from the report: 

  • Contracts going to people of color increased from 15.3% in the prior study to 23.3% in the current study. Contracts to Black members represent 45.7% of that increase. That change however, does not necessarily reflect improvement across the industry. For example, among Production Contracts used on Broadway and some tours, much of the increased representation of people of color can be attributed to multiple productions of Hamilton alone. Importantly, what little change has occurred since 2015 still falls short of reflecting our nation. The 2010 American Community Survey reported 39.6% of Americans identified as people of color, for example. 
  • Contracts going to women increased from 43.5% of all contracts to 44.9% in the current study. A pay gap remains between genders because men are able to receive more overscale (payments above minimum requirements). Not only do women earn less than men, but trans, non-binary or gender-nonconforming members usually earn less than their cisgender peers in the same job categories on any given contract type.  
  • Barely 1% of contracts issued from 2016-2019 were to members who report living with a disability. This number is surely higher in reality. Nationally, roughly one in four Americans are living with a disability. Furthermore, people with disabilities tend to earn less than their non-disabled counterparts. 
  • There has been a decrease in the percentage of contracts going to members over 65 years of age since 2013-2015. In addition, contracts issued to members of color skewed younger compared to white members, who were most likely to be issued contracts beyond age 65. Nationally, 73.8% of all contracts for members 65 years old and older went to white members.

This report structure is more expansive and inclusive than the previous version, published in 2017 based on contractual data from the 2013 to 2015 theatrical seasons. It has added data about sexual orientation and gender identity. It has more data about hiring of disabled members and includes information on veteran status and age as well. 

The full report is available to read here.

A supplemental report will be released later this year breaking down the data by major theatrical markets. 

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks  

November 18, 2020