New Survey Reveals Gender Inequality in Australia’s Top Opera Houses

By Francisco Salazar

A new survey out of Australia’s The Conversation has revealed that there is still gender inequality in the majority of opera companies in Australia.

The survey looked at the production credits for staged operas presented by Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, the State Opera of South Australia, Victorian Opera, and West Australian Opera between 2005 and 2020.

According to the survey, women held just 5 percent of conductor credits over the 16 seasons and less than a quarter of director credits. Women’s representation was lowest at Opera Australia and the State Opera of South Australia.

The study also showed that canonical operas dominated programming at four of the five companies, followed by slightly less popular works from the 19th century and earlier. That was most evident at the West Australian Opera, Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, and State Opera of South Australia. From these productions, it demonstrated that women practitioners were notably absent from the production teams for these popular works.

Where women saw greater representation was on high-risk modern operas at the Victorian Opera, which was the outlier.

The study also showed that companies have also been risk averse which has contributed to gender inequality. According to the study, “risk perceptions also have compounding effects. Because modern operas are already seen as ‘risky,’ it appears these productions can take the ‘risk’ of employing women – whereas canonical operas, programmed because they are ‘safe,’ also make the ‘safe’ choice in hiring men.”