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The Gender Pay Gap Among Australian Artists: Some preliminary findings

Nov 12, 2020

A report by David Throsby, Katya Petetskaya and Sunny Y. Shin from the Department of Economics, Macquarie University, conducted in consultation with the Australia Council for the Arts


As artists, Australian women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. In the most recent comprehensive national survey of professional artists’ economic circumstances, 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.  


This research aims to investigate the possible causes of the ongoing gender pay gap in the arts by isolating various factors that might account for women’s lesser income. Drawing on data from the 2016-17 national survey of practising professional artists, Making Art Work, it explores variables such as education and training, experience, creative work hours, socio-demographics, and other factors affecting an artist’s career. However, it appears that even after allowing for a range of differences between men and women artists, the gender pay gap remains virtually unchanged. We are 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.  


This conclusion is given further weight when the results of this analysis are compared with income for female artists working within remote First Nations communities. In separate analyses using data from the National Survey of Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists, we find that there are only minor differences between the genders in the levels of income earned by First Nations artists living in remote communities in the Central Desert (NT) and APY Lands (SA), and Arnhem Land (NT). It appears that the gender gap that affects incomes of most female artists in Australia is not evident in these contexts.  


These results highlight the particularity of the social, cultural and economic conditions likely to affect the gender gap. Further research is needed to identify the sources of gender disadvantage within different contexts, and the impacts of such disadvantage on the careers and working circumstances of professional women artists. Our ongoing work will consider the impact of disability and cultural background on the relative incomes of male and female artists, and the different income relationships for First Nations artists living in different cultural contexts around Australia.