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 third diversity and inclusion hiring bias report, tracking the demographics of how its members are hired for acting and stage management work, and how much they were paid in the year 2020. 

“2020 was obviously an outlier year; our industry was among the hardest hit by COVID, and work weeks were nowhere close to the norm. But 2020 was also the year in which theatrical leaders across the country loudly and collectively promised 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 by the realities of the data: while there was some incremental progress here and there in 2020, the theatre fell far short of fulfilling its promises of diverse and inclusive hiring. Equity has made it a top priority to combat inequality in the industry, but we cannot do this work alone. We call on everyone who makes hiring and pay decisions in the theatre 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 one to document a single year in the theatre industry. While 2020 was a year of historically low theatre employment, there is still data accounting for thousands of union actor and stage manager jobs. Upon examining this data, Equity staff found that, once more, there are gaps nationwide in the theatre industry when it comes to both job opportunity and pay. While these reports have demonstrated modest improvements year over year, they have 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 tended to earn more than women for the same amount of work, and more still than non-binary members. 
  • The percentage of contracts going to members of color increased marginally between 2016-2019 to 2020, from 21.50% to 24.77%. 
  • Members of color nationally earned an average of 91.80% of what white members made per week. 
  • Stage manager jobs continue to go most often to white workers, and stark pay gaps persist along both racial and gender lines. 
  • Members who are disabled, transgender or over 65 tend to earn less than the industry average. 

“Equity cannot control who employers choose to hire, but we can – and must – be outspoken about the inequality we see,” said Bliss Griffin, Equity’s diversity and inclusion strategist. “We have 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.” 

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  

March 10, 2022