Women make up around 70% of arts audiences and 70% of the arts workforce, but only about 30% of arts leadership (Elizabeth Freestone and The Guardian). This sort of inequality only supports a system that resists progress. In order to make lasting change, we must change our perception of who is a leader, and with it the actual personnel of boards of trustees, senior management teams and decision makers of all kinds.
Diverse City’s mission is to combat poor representation in the arts, so we are delighted to be part of Women Leaders South West. This programme addresses the gender imbalance by creating opportunities for women in participating organisations. Over ten months, women join organisations like us, who will give them real, hands on leadership experience. This paid opportunity upskills women, while simultaneously providing them with a lasting network of peers. We know this web of brilliant women will step into roles where they can help the next generation of women rise.
We are so excited to be working with two brilliant associates, Vandna Mehta and Daisy Higman. Vandna shared about her experience as a woman in the performing arts and her ambitions as a leader. You can either listen to Vandna, or read the transcript below.
Hi, I’m Vandna. I’m a single mum first. Then I’m also a creative producer, events organizer, arts activist, community worker as a whole. I co-founded the Diverse Artists Network, a development agency for diversity in the arts, promoting cultural competency and representation in the sector. I’m well known for collaborative work in the city. “Joining the dots”, I like to call it, to support people, to be seen, be heard, and get paid.
People describe me as a pillar of the community integrating arts and culture, to provide platforms for marginalized voices. I’m really excited to be part of the Women Leaders South West project. It’s challenging enough to be a woman but to be a woman of color, that becomes a double challenge. I want to be able to break that glass ceiling and remove those barriers.
I have progressed okay with the work I do currently. However, I want to continue to be an advocate for change. I believe in supporting, elevating, communicating, and adapting cross-culturally, to build confidence and momentum for all underrepresented people. I feel the resources and support that this program has to offer will take me to the next level and help me flourish.
I’m really excited to be working with Claire Hodgson to learn about the day-to-day running of an arts organization at senior management level and to be creative with her. And I love Mid Life, that’s really why I applied to Diverse City in the first place. It so resonated with me. It really excites me just being part of a really good organisation that is well managed.
I’d like to inspire other women of color and be a positive role model for other single mothers and women who have faced obstacles be it cultural, class pressures, or things like domestic abuse of which I do relate to. It’s been a long road of self-work, healing, and resilience to get where I am today. I still hear those doubtful discouraging voices in my head. However, with my determination, passion, and proactive nature, I strive to persevere and reach that goal to be a great leader.
Any organization that tackles the status of women in leadership is one I would be humbled to be part of. I am keen to be mentored and hope I will be able to mentor others. I feel that this program will ignite the true leader in me, which in turn will benefit other future leaders with whom I plan to work with.
Liked this blog about Women Leaders South West? Click here to read about how we’re supporting mums, and all parents and carers in the sector.
* Please note that we use the word ‘women’ to refer to both cis and trans women, together.