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Women represent a strong majority of Canadian artists
Women are a huge majority of dancers but a small minority of producers, directors, conductors, and composers
This post analyzes the number and proportion of women in each of 10 artist occupations, based on the 2021 census.
There are 202,900 artists in Canada who spent more time at their art than at any other occupation in May of 2021. Of these, 109,100 (or 54%) are women (whether cisgender or transgender), and 93,700 are men (46%).
Women represent a much higher proportion of artists (54%) than all Canadian workers (48%).
In this post, “women” refers to the “women+” grouping that Statistics Canada developed for the 2021 census. The statistics on “women+” include cisgender women, transgender women, as well as some non-binary individuals (likely those who were assigned female sex at birth, but that’s not 100% clear from Statistics Canada’s description).
I am crossing my fingers that my special request for separate data on transgender and non-binary artists will be approved by the powers-that-be at Statistics Canada. The census collected data on multiple gender categories but released most statistics more on a binary sex-at-birth basis than a complex gender basis. (I presume that this was due to a lot of caution over confidentiality.)
The gender/sex calculations in today’s post are based on Statistics Canada’s first release of detailed occupational data in November. Unfortunately, occupational data for Indigenous and racialized workers were not included in the release. My analysis of Indigenous / racialized / intersectional data will have to wait until my custom data request is fulfilled. (I’m still waiting, partly due to the need for special approval of my gender request.)
Next week, I’ll look at the representation of women in artist and arts leadership occupations in each province, with some information on the territories.
Waiting for a fuller picture of incomes
Today’s post contains counts of women and men artists, not their incomes.
Why no income data today? Because I want to provide a fuller picture of artists’ incomes before examining demographic breakdowns.
Why is a fuller picture so important? Because the income data in the 2021 census relate to respondents’ incomes in the previous calendar year. Which is 2020. Which is a snapshot at the height of the pandemic, when very few self-employed artists had gigs.
Right now, I have access only to artists’ employment incomes in 2020. It will come as no surprise to most of you that artists’ employment incomes were ridiculous low in 2020.
Were employment incomes lower for women than men? In most occupations, yes, but the bigger story is how ridiculously low the employment income data are. I want to take some time to explain this in a separate post when I have more than just employment income available. Data on total personal income and household income are also in my custom data request.
Artists represent 1.1% of all women in the Canadian labour force. In other words, 1 in every 91 women who work is an artist.
For men, artists represent 0.9% of all workers. 1 in every 114 working men is an artist.
Women artists by occupation
The representation of women varies significantly by artist occupation, as depicted in the graph below:
Close to nine in ten dancers are women (86%).
About two-thirds of workers in two visual artist occupation groups are women (65% in both “painters, sculptors, and other visual artists” as well as “craftspeople”).
59% of writers are women.
The other six artist occupations have a proportion of women that is equal to or lower than the average for all artists (54%):
54% of workers in the catch-all category of other performers (not dancers, musicians, actors, conductors, etc.) are women.
Women represent 53% of photographers.
About one-half of musicians (51%) and actors, comedians, and circus performers (49%) are women.
Only 35% of producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations are women.
Women represent just 31% of conductors, composers, and arrangers.
The occupations with the largest numbers of women (as opposed to the highest percentage of women) are:
Musicians: 19,200 women (and 18,300 men)
Writers: 16,400 women (and 11,300 men)
Painters, sculptors, and other visual artists: 14,000 women (and 7,400 men)
Craftspeople: 12,700 women (and 6,900 men)
Producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations: 12,700 women (and 23,500 men)
Photographers: 10,900 women (and 9,700 men)
Actors, comedians, and circus performers: 9,700 women (and 9,900 men)
Dancers: 9,400 women (and 1,500 men)
Other performers: 2,900 women (and 2,500 men)
Conductors, composers, and arrangers: 1,200 women (and 2,700 men)
Interested in a profile of artists in your municipality or province? Subscribe now at the sponsor / shareable level (just $750) to get a custom post with many important breakdowns (occupation, gender, education, age, racialized individuals, Indigenous Peoples). Bonus: you’ll receive access to every other subscribers-only post for the next 12 months.
Notes on methods
Statistics Canada’s full occupation titles for the 10 occupation groups included as artists are:
Actors, comedians, and circus performers
Artisans and craftspersons
Authors and writers (excluding technical writers)
Conductors, composers, and arrangers
Musicians and singers
Painters, sculptors, and other visual artists
Producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations
“Professional” artists, i.e., those who worked more hours as an artist than in any other job
This analysis essentially relates to professional artists, but with a very specific concept of “professional”. The census data on occupations include people who worked more hours as an artist than at any other occupation between May 1 and 8, 2021, plus people who were not in the labour force at that time but had worked more as an artist than at another occupation between January of 2020 and May of 2021.
The census does not ask about any other notions of “professional”, such as acceptance by peers, a body of work in the field, etc.
This means that part-time artists who spent more time at another occupation in May of 2021 would be classified in the other occupation.
We know that many artists compile multiple activities into a portfolio career, or at least into a bundle of gigs that (hopefully) earn them a living income. Because many of these artists would be counted in their other job(s), I have always noted that the census tends to undercount artists.
Context: May of 2021
The pandemic context in the spring of 2021 is important to keep in mind when interpreting census data on artists.
As of May 8, 2021, 39% of Canadians had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and just 3% had received two doses, according to the Government of Canada. At that time, the country was recovering from the third wave of COVID-19, which at its peak saw the largest number of cases as of that date (see this graph). The federal government had just approved the first vaccine for children between 12 and 15 years of age.
The Canada Recovery Benefit was still in place in May of 2021, providing income support to some of those who needed it.
In terms of arts attendance, between the start of the pandemic and May of 2021:
Just 6% of Canadian culture goers had attended an indoor arts or cultural performance.
10% of Canadian culture goers had attended an outdoor arts or cultural performance.
14% of Canadian culture goers had visited an art gallery or museum.
These statistics are drawn from the July 2021 issue of the Arts Response Tracking Study.
Between the time of the 2016 census (i.e., the second quarter of 2016) and the time of the 2021 census (the second quarter of 2021), Statistics Canada’s national culture and sport indicators indicate that the direct impact of the arts on Gross Domestic Product had not changed at all, after factoring in inflation. Similarly, total output in the arts (similar to total revenues) had increased by just 0.4%, after adjusting for inflation.