Women in the Arts event March 2014
Yesterday I attended an event called Women in the Arts, part of the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre. I was interested in attending because of the issues that are currently arising for me in trying to balance a career that I enjoy, find fulfilling and need (for emotional as well as financial reasons) with my newfound responsibilities of being a mother – a balance that I’m still struggling to come to terms with at the moment, although it is early days as yet.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre opened the day with an inspiring conversation about representations of women’s creativity in the arts and how, though women have always had a creative voice, even today, that voice is not necessarily represented in the works of art that are performed, those that are reviewed / critiqued, and those that people recommend to one another etc.
The day started with a number of talks from women from different areas of the arts discussing the issues that affect women working in each of these areas.
The event then broke into separate discussion areas for different art forms – I was part of the ‘Women in Heritage’ discussion. We had an interesting discussion which acknowledged that women are actually very well represented in heritage, though not always at more senior levels. Each of the small groups were then asked to report back to the whole conference and a number of themes emerged. One theme was the need for strong female mentors and role models. Another was confidence and women’s need to assert themselves more, be more willing to negotiate on pay etc. Childcare and dependent care arrangements, their cost, and the fact that it tends always to fall to women, came up time and time again. The need for more female gatekeepers at senior levels came up a lot too.
I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said on the day, but it was very inspiring to spend the afternoon among such articulate, high-achieving and creative women, and very reassuring to hear of others struggling with, and feeling as concerned by the same challenges that I’m struggling with.
In terms of next steps for me to make sure I capitalise on the inspiration I gained, I’m going to renew my efforts to find myself a mentor who is both in a senior role in a heritage organisation and also a working mother (in a digital role would be even better - any ideas anyone?), I’m going to try and give myself more permission to carve out time to do things that will benefit me and my career and I’m generally going to try and take confidence and reassurance from the knowledge that there are others who have successfully circumnavigated the challenges I’m currently facing.