‘No gender quotas in theatres’

Culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth has rejected calls for the introduction of 'equality goals' in the theatre. A committee established in 2004 by then culture minister Marita Ulvskog expressed the view that each sex should comprise at least 40 percent of the personnel involved in theatre productions.

In practical terms, the Committee for Equality in the Dramatic Arts hoped to increase the number of women working at all levels of theatre production both on and off stage – from directors and dramatists to dancers and set designers.

Since the committee completed its study last spring, the theatre community has waited with interest to see if the current culture minister will implement the recommendations. Instead Adelsohn Liljeroth has come out strongly against the proposals.

“We politicians cannot express opinions as regards the repertoire; otherwise we are approaching a form of dictatorship. Just as we do not wish to introduce quotas for the boards of companies listed on the stock exchange, we are not going to suggest them in the area of the dramatic arts.

“I don’t want to see any goals at all, whether they be 40, 50 or 60,” she told Svenska Dagbladet.

The minister also reacted negatively to the commission’s intention of working towards greater equality among those who attend the theatre.

“One can’t start setting audience quotas,” said Adelsohn Liljeroth.

While admitting to some concerns regarding equality issues in the theatre, the minister feels that theatres have taken stock of the problem and will act accordingly.

“I believe in networking, changing attitudes and encouraging theatres to follow existing equality laws,” said Adelsohn Liljeroth.

Birgitta Englin, the head of Riksteatern and chairwoman of the Committee for Equality in the Dramatic Arts, is troubled by the minister’s statements.

“It is a sign that the people at the Department of Culture don’t think that equality in the dramatic arts is an important issue,” she told Svenska Dagbladet.

The Swedish Union for Theatre, Artists and Media also supported the committee’s recommendations, and equality spokeswoman Ulla Svedin characterizes the ministers statements as “incredibly sad”.

“To call the goals quotas must mean that she is of the opinion that women do not get to write or direct for the major stages because of the inferior quality of their work,” she told Svenska Dagbladet.

“This could mean that everything goes back to the way it was, because not much has changed with regard to positions of power in Swedish theatre. Most artistic leaders and managers are still men,” Svedin added.

The minister does however find a sympathetic ear in the form of employer organization Swedish Performing Arts.

“The state should not go in and decide what theatres are allowed to do. I hope that theatres see this as a sign that they should continue on the chosen route and that they have been given the responsibility to get there on their own,” Sture Carlsson, head of the organization, told Svenska Dagbladet.

Photo:Mats Bäcker/Kungliga Operan/Imagebank Sweden