The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government's arts funding and advisory body. As reported in Australia’s previous quadrennial report, the Australia Council invests in female artists to undertake a wide range of artistic, skills and career development activities that supported their direct participation and engagement in cultural life.
In 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 the Australia Council invested just over A$18.4 million in grants to female artists, arts workers and cultural professionals. The success rates for women and men applying to the Council’s grants programs are broadly comparable, suggesting that female artists are not disadvantaged in relation to funding opportunities.
However, research indicates that Australian female artists continue to earn less than their male counterparts. In the most recent comprehensive national survey of professional artists’ economic circumstances, Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia which was undertaken in 2016-17, the total incomes of female artists were 25 percent less on average than for males, and women earned 30 percent less from their creative work. These differentials were greater than the workforce gender pay gap of 16 percent at that time.
Analysis of this data in the Australia Council’s report The Gender Pay Gap Among Australian Artists: Some preliminary findings (2020) highlight the particularity of the social, cultural and economic conditions likely to affect the gender gap. It explores variables such as education and training, experience, creative work hours, socio-demographics, and other factors affecting an artist’s career. It appears that even after allowing for a range of differences between men and women artists, the gender pay gap remains virtually unchanged. The Australia Council is therefore left with the conclusion that women artists across all artistic occupations are subject to forms of gender-related disadvantage that reflect discriminatory problems affecting women in society at large, and which may be more serious in the arts than in other areas.
Applications to the Australia Council’s Leadership programs consistently indicate a higher proportion of women applying to and participating, suggesting that the Council’s investment in arts leaders has the potential contribute over time to these disparities.
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