Gender imbalance could cost arts groups subsidies


The chair of CD&V’s women’s action group is asking for the government to take gender balance into account when paying out subsidies to arts organisations

‘This has to change’

Several members of the federal parliament have called for a change to the rules on arts subsidies to penalise organisations that discriminate against women. “Anyone who puts too few women on stage or doesn’t show enough films by female directors should receive less subsidy,” said Els Van Hoof, member of parliament and chair of the CD&V organisation Vrouw en Maatschappij (Woman and Society).

The problem in the arts is widespread, she said, across genres, from stage to literature. “Women have a harder time starting a career after their studies. The wage gap is wide, and the glass ceiling is thick. More than three out of four artworks in museums portray naked women, yet there are only a handful of paintings by women. Do women have to be naked to be seen in a museum?”

Her party, CD&V, has prepared a list of measures to combat the problem. The existing rule that a maximum of two-thirds of the board of any arts organisation may be of the same sex is a good thing, Van Hoof said, but the rule is not backed by sanctions in cases where it is not applied.

“That has to change,” she said. “Anyone who doesn’t reach the target needs to get less subsidy. In the Scandinavian countries, gender balance in programming is also a factor during the subsidy rounds. That’s the road we need to take.”

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