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Eight of England's largest arts employers reduced their gender pay gaps last year, with Arts Council England ending the year with a small gap in favour of women.

Photo of Lady Justice

Arts Council England (ACE) has eradicated its internal gender pay gap. Between 2017/18 and 2018/19, its median gender pay gap fell from 2.6% to -0.6%, meaning female employees at ACE are now paid slightly more than male employees.

In contrast, at other large arts employers, men are still paid at least 3.6% more, up to a high of 21.3% more at commercial operator Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.


These conclusions are drawn from analysis of figures reported to Government, giving a snapshot of employee earnings at organisations with over 250 staff on 5th April over the past two years.

Three key metrics are published: the median pay gap between men and women; the proportion of staff in the lowest pay bracket that were female; and the proportion of staff in the highest pay bracket that were female. AP tracked changes in the gender pay gap at ten large arts organisations* for 2017/18 and 2018/19 – the only years for which data is available. 

While pay equality among this group improved overall, the gap at some organisations remains substantial. The median pay gap at the Southbank Centre is 15.3% (previously 18.3%) and at Nimax Theatres it is 10.9%, despite falling four percentage points from 14.9%.

While remaining significant, the National Gallery’s gap almost halved, falling from 15.2% to 9.8%, and a similar trend was found at Sadler’s Wells, where the gap fell from 16.1% to 9%.

Pay brackets

Over the two years, most organisations saw a trend towards having fewer women in the lowest pay bracket, and more in the highest. At the Royal Opera House, 46% of top earners were women in 2018/19, compared to 42% the previous year. And at Ambassadors Theatre Group, 56% of the lowest-paid staff were women in 2018/19, down from 68%.

An ACE spokesperson said the funder had tackled its own gap by providing family-friendly, flexible working opportunities at all levels of the organisation, introducing practices to address unconscious bias in recruitment, and committing to offering all new starters the same base salary from the pay band for their role.

“We will continue to monitor our pay gap and policies, and although it is difficult to make exact predictions we naturally hope to maintain these gender pay ratios in future,” they added.

National Theatre

The median pay gap increased at only two organisations from 2017/18 to 2018/19. One was Delfont Mackintosh, at which the gap increased from 13.4% to 21.3%, alongside an increased in the proportion of workers in the lowest pay bracket that were female – from 53.3% to 60.3%.

The gap also increased at the National Theatre, which was the only organisation to see negative movement on all three metrics. The median gap fell from 3% in favour of women to 4.4% in favour of men; the proportion of the highest earners that were women fell by six percentage points to 45%; and the proportion of earners in the lowest pay bracket that were women increased slightly, from 46% to 47%.

When asked why this had happened, Lisa Burger, Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre, said the organisation has significant variability in the size and makeup of its workforce year on year, and at any single point in the year. “Reporting on this data as a single day snapshot in time will always throw up anomalous results, which is why we set a target to remain below 5%,” she said.

“Last year our men were paid 3% less than women on the median measure and dominated the lowest quartile. This year the gap is 4.4% in favour of men. Our initial assessment is that this reflects the way this measure may swing due to the dynamic nature of our organisation.”

She continued: “We have brought forward the calculation of 2019's figure to assess whether there are any genuine trends that require action, as our ideal continues to be a gap as close to zero as it can be on a consistent basis.

“We are pleased that we remain both within our target, amongst the lowest gaps for our sector, and some way better than the UK median measure of 9.6%.”

*AP tracked changes at the Royal Opera House, The National Theatre, the Southbank Centre, Nimax Theatres, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Ambassador Theatre Group, Delfont Mackintosh, Sadler’s Wells, Arts Council England, and the National Gallery.