Some basic numbers
It is often stated that there is a gradual filtering out of women at every stage of career progression: from school-age music studies, throughout academic pathways, and later in professional contexts. My data is limited, but I can compare the 4 years I was an undergraduate and masters student at the University of Manchester — when the vast majority of my performances were in student contexts and 24.7% of works performed were by female composers — with the period since then, for which that figure is just 16.7%. That amounts to a drop in representation of 32.3% in the 7 years since my Masters graduation.
Gender & Age
Experience suggests that age plays a factor in gender imbalances: namely that while both genders might be represented in a specific context, women may have to work harder and longer for the same opportunities, or are delayed in career progression by various societal hurdles, and so reach equivalent career points later than their male colleagues. Unfortunately, this is very hard to quantify without more detailed research — evaluating career progression properly would be very complex.
Measuring average age at time of performance is one option, but this seems to be indicative of rather little (25.8 for women; 35.8 for men) — the average age for male composers probably skews high thanks to more performances of works by older, established composers (even more likely to be male than programmed composers in general); and perhaps the average for female composers skews low given the higher number of female composers in student contexts in this set of data (see ‘Career progression’).
To try to understand this better, one might consider the typical age differences within individual concerts. In other words, are female or male composers likely to be older or younger in comparison to the other composers on the same programme? On average, female composers are 0.67 years younger than the concert average, with male composers 0.39 years older. Again, I’d suggest the data is currently insufficient: just 25 of 66 concerts are being taken into account here with complete age data; and the sample is too biased to provide any insights.
An overview of all the concerts
- Just 2 concerts (of 66) have featured a programme where half or more of the works are by female composers.
- On average just 18.7% of works played are by female composers.
There are 9 concerts missing programme data. These are ignored entirely in the statistics above.