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Graphic courtesy of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
Graphic courtesy of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

NYC Study Finds Culture Nonprofits Lag Behind City’s Diversity

A survey finds that theatre staffs are 70 percent non-Hispanic white, which is roughly the inverse of the city’s demographics.

NEW YORK CITY: The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) has released a survey that examined the diversity of staff and leadership at nearly 1,000 cultural nonprofits, and the study found that diversity within the employees of those organizations still lags significantly behind the diversity of the city.

According to the findings, New York City’s cultural workforce is 61.52 percent non-Hispanic white, 38.48 percent people of color, and 52.55 percent female. Gender non-conforming individuals represent less than 1 percent of employees. This contrasts with findings in the 2010 U.S. Census, which reported that the city’s residents are 33 percent non-Hispanic white and 67 percent people of color. Gender parity, though, seems to have been achieved in the aggregate: The Census found that women made up 52 percent of the local population.

The study also found that people of color are more likely to be occupying junior (at 45 percent) and mid-level (32 percent) roles, rather than senior (26 percent) and leadership (21.32 percent) positions.

“Our city became the cultural capital of the world through the collective contributions of residents who, for generations, have brought their unique experiences and creative practices from across the globe,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “When it comes to making sure that every resident has an equal opportunity to contribute to this extraordinary cultural community, we need to lead by example. Thanks to Tom Finkelpearl and his team, this survey will help us find ways to foster a creative sector that opens doors for every New Yorker regardless of their background.”

The study also contained a field breakdown, which showed that non-Hispanic white individuals occupy 70 percent of all staff roles in the theatre industry and 79 percent of leadership roles. The most diverse cultural industries were folk arts (8 percent non-Hispanic white) and multi-disciplinary (at 47 percent). The least diverse industry was photography (79 percent).

Below is a demographic breakdown of jobs within the theatre organizations surveyed. The complete study can be found here.

Graphic courtesy of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
Graphic courtesy of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

Despite the fact that NYC cultural organizations are more diverse than the national average—previous reports cited in the study put non-Hispanic white arts managers at 78 percent nationwide—DCLA plans to keep working to increase those numbers. The department will present the survey results at a number of upcoming public events to encourage feedback, and will work with partners to find ways of promoting diversity, including working with the City University of New York and private philanthropies to establish a pipeline to internships and employment.

The next phase will also include new funding initiatives, including up to $2 million in grants for development and training of people currently underrepresented in the professional theatre community, lead by the Theater Subdistrict Council, which will issue a request for proposals this spring.

While a statistically insignificant number of responses self-identified as having a disability, the diversity initiative will also find ways to include individuals with disabilities.

“As cultural organizations, it’s essential we not replicate the inequities of our broader society, but instead harness our creative energies and community relationships to model a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive world,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of Theatre Communications Group, the publisher of American Theatre and one of the advising organizations in the study. “As we advance this vision with theatres across the nation, we’re inspired by the Department of Cultural Affairs’s efforts here in New York City, and look forward to continuing our collaboration on this essential work.”

  • Eric Williams

    I find this article to be incredibly shocking concerning how diverse in race New York City really is. I’ve only been to New York City once back in 2011. Back then, I was lucky enough to see Memphis and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They were two phenomenal shows, and looking back, I only seem to remember only people of white working in both of the theaters, which is very ironic considering the subject matter in Memphis. From observing the graphs, I say the next question we should ask is what can we do about this? Who in the higher ranks needs to be told of this chart so the theatre chains can be more diverse with work in their future?

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