Waging Culture: The Sex Gap (!)

Last post, we left you with the impression that one of the main indicators for gallery representation was an artist’s sex. This, of course, leads to the next round of analysis, a break-out of the data by sex directly. (You’ll want to read this one right to the end: we’re seriously burying the lede.)

To recap, as opposed to the national labour force, where sex is evenly divided, female artists make up 63% of the population. As far as the major demographic markers are concerned, the distribution between males and females is about even, although home ownership is higher for female artists (52% vs 47%) as well as for residence in a metro region (59% to 56%). As reported already, gallery representation is much lower for females than males (28% of females and 36% of males are represented by galleries).

Education-wise, 96% of female artists have at least an undergraduate degree, while for male artists the percentage is 88%. If we remember the apparent (slight) bias against gallery representation by education level, we can surmise that these three factors are in some way inter-related (sex, gallery representation, education). We might not have stated this already, but there is no way to go from correlations to causes, so it is difficult to see exactly what that relationship might be.

Female artists also have less time in the studio, both in proportion and in absolute terms. They work more hours in non-art related activities and fewer in art related employment. (Please note: Unpaid domestic work is not tracked in this survey.)

With regards to studio revenue, the relative measures for sales and artist fees have remained steady, with male artists consistently earning about double sales and half as much more in fees. Nevertheless, sales are down significantly for both, and fees up slightly. In grants, however, the order has reversed, with females earning slightly higher grant amounts as compared to males in 2012 over 2007. Combined, the amount of grants earned is steady.

In proportional terms, fees played an equal role in income, with sales topping 50% of income earned for males, and grants just over 30%; females are the exact opposite, with grants being over 50% and sales just over 30%.

Continuing the trend of expenses being positively correlated to revenue, they dropped for both subsets, albeit by a higher percentage for males than females. Thus, net income for females remained about the same between 2007 and 2012, and with net income for males increasing by 75%. In terms of medians, however, net studio income is exactly where it was five years earlier, with females earning 2/3rds of male artists. Income for males are skewed more strongly to the right, meaning there is a larger amount of income disparity within the subset of male artists. Thus, one can surmise that the top earners in regards to studio income and revenue are primarily males.



Income from art related activities increased for both subsets by around $3,000, and non-art income dropped by about $1,500.



These figures so far are net, and indicate that there is a significant wage gap between the sexes. In order to assess the severity of this wage gap requires a comparison to the labour force as a whole.

There are several ways of measuring the wage gap. Most commonly, the basis of comparison is between full-time, full-year earners, which under many circumstances is the best way of assessing the existence of a wage gap, but it can also be misleading as employment as artists is often not full-time (with other income sources being needed to supplement the income from studio practices). This method also does not take into consideration time spent in earning the income so measured. As with other financial indicators, the average is also more susceptible to misrepresentation, as it is more sensitive to skewing due to outliers and extreme values.

In our 2007 report, we inadvertently used the full-time, full-year wage gap to compare our sample to (which was, for 2007, approximately 26%). Measuring by average hourly wages, however, the total labour force wage gap in 2007 was 15% (e.g., for every $1/hr earned by a male, a female earned 85¢). In 2011, the wage gap was just over 12%, a decrease of 3%. (see here for more information on trends in wage gaps in the Canadian labour force)

Turning to the Waging Culture data, for visual artists, the net practice average hourly income wage gap in 2007 was 27%. This gap increased by 2012, however, to a shocking 60%. That bears repeating: for every $1/hr a male artist earns, a female artist earned 40¢. About the only mitigating factor here is that the average hourly wage of artists is so miniscule to being with.

One caveat to keep in mind is the effect of income disparity: top earners being, as we’ve stated, male, and these hourly wages being averages, the disparity between male and female artists is primarily in the far right of the spectrum … that is, the average hourly wage for male artists is skewed by a small number of high earners.

Nevertheless, this move away from income parity in the studio is in direct contrast with what is occurring in art related and non-art related employment, where the wage gap is closing quickly (from 24% to 15% in art related employment; from 33% to 8% in non-art related employment). Taking all three into consideration, however, sees the gap widening in overall net income, dropping from 10% to 14%.

This post was updated on November 5th, 2014, to restate the wage gap in percentage terms as opposed to the wage gap ratio (e.g., 15% instead of .85).

This is one of a series of mini-reports on the results of the 2012 Waging Culture survey, a study of the socio-economic conditions faced by Canadian-resident professional visual artists. Supported by the Art Gallery of York University, it is an undertaking of Michael Maranda. This is the second iteration of the survey. For other mini-reports, and for the full 2007 report, click here. Comments and questions may be directed to wagingculture@theagyuisoutthere.org