Gender Bias in Theater?

The NY Times reports on a year long study conducted by a Princeton economics student, Emily Glassberg Sands, whose work has been vetted by a number of excellent economists.  The study looked at the fact that many more plays produced are written by men than by women.  These are the conclusions reached:

1.  There are many more men than women playwrights and the men are more prolific.  Given that, men’s and women’s plays are produced at the same rate.

2.  A study, which sent a play to theater directors and literary managers around the country with the name variously a male or female one, indicated that men judge men and women equally, but women are more likely to favor the male writer.

3.  Women’s plays, when produced, are commercially significantly more successful, but they do not get any longer run time than the less successful men’s plays.  (A case of there being higher standards for woman to get treatment equal to a man.)

4.  “Plays that feature women — which are more commonly written by women — are also less likely to be produced”.  (One person’s quoted reaction said that the female characters were less likable; it was not possible to tell if this was supported by the research or an interpretation of it.)

Let me start off the comments.

I have heard the equivalent of 1 holds for the sciences; I am not sure about other fields, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is true in most or all male  dominated fields.  The data in this case was drawn from a directory that depends  on self-reporting, so part of the difference could start with what is reported.  One reader comments that women are still socialized to believe that they will be wives and mothers in a way that puts other things second.  I am inclined to think rate of productivity may be influenced by having a sense of being a part of the community, having expectations that what one writes will be taken seriously, and so on.

2 is certainly unwelcome, but a reminder that women are equally likely to have implicit biases; if we simply assume we  are more fair, we may well be less fair.

Now, please, do join in and tell us what you think!

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