In Understanding and Dismantling Racism, Joseph Barndt explains that there are five levels of an institution.
- Personnel: people who work or volunteer for the institution; people who are authorized to speak, act, and implement programs in the institution's name; people who act as gatekeepers for the constituency and the general public
- Programs, products, and services: what an institution provides for its constituency (food, clothing, technical services, entertainment, worship services, etc.); designed to attract, nurture, and retain members or customers or clients
- Constituency and community: people served by an institution; people who belong to or patronize an institution; people for whom decisions and actions of the institution are taken
- Organizational structure: where the power of the institution is (board of directors, managers, etc.); where decisions are made, budgets are decided, people are hired and fired, programs are approved, boundaries are set, etc.; where structures of structures of accountability are designed and implemented
- Mission, purpose, and identity: what an institution is for and why it exists; defined by constitution, by-laws, mission statement, belief system, worldview, history, and tradition
*Note: If you can't go to an Undoing Racism workshop, you should really pick up this book and read every word.
Most of our efforts at inclusion and diversity focus on the top three layers while the bottom two rarely get any attention. The bottom two are also the hardest to change. This explains why, despite the reality of an increasingly diverse population of artists and audiences, we still see a theatrical landscape dominated by white people, men, and middle- to upper-class people. If we're serious about changing this reality, we have to take a look at what's going on at the deeper levels of an institution.
But the first step is getting a picture of what's going on.
Gwydion Suilebhan has a very interesting statistical breakdown of this year's DC playwrights demographics. I really like this sort of thing because it starkly reveals exactly what we're dealing with. Regardless of our intentions or our efforts, it doesn't change the fact that only 4% of playwrights getting produced in DC are women of color.
That post got me thinking about how to figure out where women and people of color fit into the organizational structure of the indie theatre scene. How many women and people of color are reflected in each level of an organization? My prediction is that there will be a very noticeable difference between representation in the top three layers and representation in the bottom two layers.
Whatever the results, I know that it has nothing to do with outright discrimination or deliberate attempts to exclude women and people of color. What I think those numbers would reflect our deeply ingrained (and thus harder to change) assumptions about how women and people of color fit into our notions about power and leadership.
Doing an industry-wide statistical analysis is sort of beyond my ability. However, it would be interesting to hear from people making theatre right now who is represented in each layer of their organizations. So, in concrete terms, I'd like to know:
- How many people are in your organization? How many of those people are women? People of color? Women of color?
- How many personnel does your organization have? How many of those people are women? People of color? Women of color?
- How many people provide your organization's products, programs, and services? How many are women? People of color? Women of color?
- How many people are in your organization's constituency (members, subscribers, etc.)? How many are women? People of color? Women of color?
- How many people make decisions at the organizational and structural level? How many are women? People of color? Women of color?
- How many people make decisions about your organization's mission, purpose, and identity? How many are women? People of color? Women of color?
I'd like to hear from you about that.