This week, New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) released a report showing that the city’s arts sector is not as diverse as the general demographics the city — the fourth most diverse municipality in the US (although still incredibly segregated). Conducted by research firm Ithaka S+R — the folks behind last August’s report on diversity in US art museums — the study looks at categories including race and ethnicity, gender, and age in relation to employment statuses such as job type and job level. The researchers surveyed over 36,000 employees, volunteers, and board members from over 1,000 nonprofit cultural organizations that received DCA funding in the last three years — not only institutions focused on the visual and performing arts, but also the multi-disciplinary and the scientific.
Initiated last summer, the report is the first of its type and is intended to serve as a baseline to measure progress as the DCA works to promote diversity to create a more inclusive cultural sector. While the greatest disparity between New York City’s cultural workforce and its general population lies in the representations of race and ethnicity, the report shows that the gender balance at the staff and board levels is pretty even — 53% female and 47% male — which aligns with the overall gender composition of the city. In terms of race, the staffs of DCA-funded organizations are 62% white non-Hispanic — or 17% points over the city’s overall white non-Hispanic population. Still, the cultural workforce of New York City is on the whole more diverse than its counterparts around the country.
A lot of the resulting data is unsurprising, like the fact that positions in the fields of security and facilities are largely held by mostly men and minorities — a trend the museum diversity report also reflected. On the flip side, women tend to dominate jobs involving community engagement, development, marketing, and public relations, while white non-Hispanics hold down the lion’s share of librarian, curator, and project/exhibition manager positions.
Things get a little more interesting when you look at organizational distribution based on the percentages of women and of white non-Hispanic staff and hone in on the extremities. According to the report, there are 27 organizations that have a 100% female staff and seven that are 100% male; the data for race and ethnicity reveals that 82 organizations are 100% white non-Hispanic, while 73 operate as entirely minority institutions — many of these, the report notes, have a specific ethnic focus.
Perhaps the most interesting insights the report delivers, though, stem from the responses of individuals surveyed — most of whom are between the ages of 25 and 35, were mostly hired in the last five years, and make up the most racially diverse age group among groups that receive DCA funding. As part of the questionnaires researchers sent out, employees were asked about their perspectives on diversity in their own workforces. Of the participants, 69% responded that they either agreed or strongly agreed that their organizations were diverse; 8% disagreed or strongly disagreed, citing socioeconomic and pipeline issues as primary barriers to diversification. Still, 77% of those surveyed said they thought there were no barriers at all to increasing diversity — perhaps reflecting the very same attitudes that will make diversifying the city’s cultural sector difficult.
The report is a major step in the city government’s efforts to actively take a role in improving the demographics of our creative landscape. DCA is also engaging in a number of initiatives, from supporting pipeline programs created by the City University of New York and private philanthropies to funding the Cultural Institutions Group to support projects that directly promote diversity efforts. The DCA plans to issue an open-call for proposals with possible solutions this spring.
Read the full “Diversity in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community” report here.