Gender Counts: An analysis of gender in Irish theatre 2006-2015

Brenda Donohue, Ciara O'Dowd, Tanya Dean, Ciara Murphy, Kathleen Cawley, Kate Harris

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

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In 2015, the Waking the Feminists movement (WTF) was formed as a grassroots organisation dedicated to campaigning for equality for women across the Irish theatre sector. What started as a sharing of professional frustrations amongst the professional Irish theatre community quickly became a global phenomenon, garnering support from celebrities on social media (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Gabriel Byrne, etc.); winning international recognition (the first ever international Lilly Award – an award that honours women in American theatre); and prompting a wave of sister organisations and responses to spring up across disciplines (the Equal Representation for Actresses 50:50 campaign founded in the UK; Sounding the Feminists founded for Irish musicians; a Six Point Plan on Gender Equality instituted by the Irish Film Board). In 2016, thanks to support from The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon, #WakingTheFeminists commissioned groundbreaking research into the gender balance in Irish theatre. The research was conducted by a team of six researchers led by Dr. Brenda Donohue, in collaboration with Irish Theatre Institute and the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway. This report work looks at key creative roles in ten of the top Arts Council-funded theatre organisations in the country over a ten-year period from 2006-15. In The Guardian, Helen Meany praised the report for giving “concrete, quantitative evidence to something that had previously been muttered about in private and anecdotally” (2018). Following the publication of the report, the then-Minister for the Arts, Heather Humphreys, organized a gender-policy workshop for National Cultural Institutions, the Irish Film Board, the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, senior officials from her department and Waking the Feminists. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht also officially requested that all publically-funded cultural institutions put gender policies in place in time for the centenary of women’s suffrage in 2018. Numerous sub-committees, policies and programmes have been put in place to combat gender inequality in arts organisations across Ireland. The Arts Council of Ireland/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon (the main funder of the arts) also instituted an internal gender equality policy, and is reviewing whether a gender equality policy will become a condition of funding for all arts organisations in the future.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUnknown Publisher
Number of pages76
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 7 Jun 2017


  • Waking the Feminists
  • Irish Theatre


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