The Women's Leadership in Resident Theaters study examined gender representation in leadership and those “next in line” at theaters that were members of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) during the 2013-2014 performance season. The study tracked a sizable gender imbalance among leaders in the field and articulated the structural barriers facing women aspiring to executive-level positions. The study’s release led to the formation of LORT’s Diversity Task Force, which has evolved into the LORT Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. Since 2016, the number of female artistic and executive leaders at LORT theaters has increased, and many of these theaters, for the first time in their history, are being led by women, a handful of them BIPOC.
While the study primarily focused on gender representation, researchers also found a “virtual absence of women of color in regional theaters.” Since the study’s publication, the number of BIPOC leaders at LORT theaters has also increased, but representation remains low, particularly for BIPOC men. Analyzing the current racial and gender representation of leadership and barriers to entry will continue to illuminate both progress and challenges for LORT to consider in its future efforts to eliminate and dismantle oppressive systems and practices.
Following the methodology of the Women’s Leadership in Resident Theatres study, this study will investigate the identity-specific barriers (e.g., personal, cultural, systemic) connected to leadership positions and influence in LORT theaters. To do this, current executive leaders and next-in-line leaders at LORT theaters will be surveyed and interviewed. In addition, the study will expand upon the work of the original study by including discussions with senior staff members, trustees, search committee members, and executive search consultants. In order to fully assess the systemic barriers encountered by people seeking leadership positions in the American theater, all parties involved in the hiring process must be fully assessed, particularly the handful of executive search firms that hold disproportionate influence on the executive search process for a majority of LORT’s member theaters.
The study aims to increase awareness of persisting racial and gender inequities for artistic and executive leaders and those that aspire to such positions. It will provide recommendations designed to guide changes in the development and selection of a robust and diverse slate of candidates for leadership positions at LORT theaters as well as other arts and cultural organizations.