Pushing the Possibilities for Diversity in Arts Leadership

Posted by Emma Osore, Apr 26, 2018 0 comments

The Secret is Out

You’ve seen the headlines and heard the calls to action—the current landscape of arts leadership does not reflect an immensely diverse New York City, and the national statistics are even more stark. In 2018 the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) is expanding on the success of its 25-year-old Diversity in Arts Leadership internship by approaching a new challenge area in the career continuum where we can grow and share our expertise. DIAL Labs is a summer 2018 pilot series that will engage professionals 5 to 10 years into their arts careers to include senior-level mentor pairing, interactive expert panels, and culturally-relevant programming. This program is not just about earning promotion into senior leadership; it is an intentional investment and exploration into the longevity, inclusion, and retention of an increasingly diverse arts leadership.

Mining the Gaps

As we looked at what it would take to continue developing leaders traditionally untapped for arts leadership, we matched our expertise with the gaps: The 2016 Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) survey of arts groups findings helped illuminate what we knew anecdotally and have been working to adddress from the early careers level—that there are major racial discrepancies between career planes and that “junior-level roles show greater diversity than senior-level positions.”

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs 2016 Diversity and Equity in New York City’s Cultural Workforce Survey: “Junior level roles show greater diversity than senior level positions. This presents opportunities for creating professional development programs to train our next generation of leaders that better reflects the city we serve.”

Additionally, alongside The Future Works Institute, DCLA delved into some of the hindering factors felt across self-identified groups which include, among others, inability to attract staff from diverse backgrounds, white/class/economic privilege, lack of understanding of diversity, white fragility, suffocating hierarchy, and accessibility.

We also look to trends in the private sector for insights. One study from the Ascend Foundation explored executive parity of people of color in San Francisco’s tech sector. The Ascend study analyzes the aggregate EEOC tech workforce 2007-2015 data for Asians, Hispanics, and Blacks in the San Francisco Bay Area; key findings include:

  1. Race was a more significant factor than gender as an impediment to climbing the management ladder.
  2. Asians were the most likely to be hired, but least likely to be promoted.
  3. Blacks and the Hispanics declined in their representation of the professional workforce.

Pushing the Possibilities

The DCLA, Future Works, Ascend study, and our own expertise have been valuable in helping us understand how to craft a program that both builds on our legacy of expertise and directly addresses the gaps in the field. ABC/NY is uniquely equipped to take on this next level of leadership training for people of color in the arts. In a recent survey of DIAL internship alumni, it was revealed that 95% of respondents identify as people of color, 48% had careers in the arts, and in 2016, 40% were managers or more senior. Our success rate at growing and actualizing senior leaders of color in the creative fields is between 8 and 14 percentage points higher than the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs arts management field.

Based on replicating what works, we are excited to introduce DIAL Labs, comprised of two components:

Leadership Labs

This interactive and culturally relevant summer workshop series will be led by experienced professionals in the arts and business sectors, and will be both live streamed and held in person in NYC. The topics that most often came up in our research of the needs of arts professionals at this career stage, and which will be addressed in this series, include:

  • marketing yourself and your arts organization;
  • creative problem solving within constraints; and
  • navigating traditional nonprofit structures.

Participants who complete the program will have access to a senior-level mentor for six months following the program to help champion their careers and professional goals. The senior-level professional mentors will span the arts and business sectors and be committed to being accountability and thought partners as participants work on their professional goals and push into senior leadership. This component of the program is one of the strongest components of our undergraduate internship program, and we are excited to continue the legacy of mentorship into DIAL Labs.

We view executive parity and gaps in programming as a huge creative opportunity for ABC/NY to leverage its 25-year track record of success in supporting arts institutions as well as individual leaders by offering capacity-building and career support along the continuum. ABC/NY is thrilled to be offering the DIAL Labs pilot program so we may continue to exceed expectations in recruiting, selecting, including, and retaining leaders of color and marginalized groups in the arts.

Questioning Ourselves (and the Field)

We are encouraged by the number of arts organizations who are starting or growing their equity-focused leadership programs based on recent studies like the DCLA survey. Together, as an arts field in NYC and beyond, we will expand the network of executive opportunities for arts professionals traditionally untapped for senior leadership. As ABC/NY is using our platform and experience to grow into a new arena, here are some things we’re still questioning:

  1. How would people describe their own identities, and how might we leverage their unique opportunities and challenges to help them earn senior leadership? While we have some of the clearest data on racial statistics, with some information on gender and disability, we look forward to pushing for stronger self-identified data to understand the diversifying needs there are for individuals, marginalized groups, and intersectional identities in the arts (i.e. gender, political affiliation, religious affiliation, sex, ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, educational attainment, body size, disability, etc.).
  2. What makes a successful arts executive? What are the current practices, habits of mind, and real-life lessons and difficulties that are present at the senior levels?
  3. What does success look like for arts executives and what might all executives learn from their approaches?
  4. It’s obvious that in the most senior positions, there are fewer spots. What are some strategies for ensuring that all with leadership potential can grow within the arts field?

As we move into understanding more about executive parity and leadership opportunities in the arts, we are so excited to launch the Diversity in Arts Leadership Labs for professionals 5 to 10 years into their arts careers. Learn more about the program structure and how to apply here, and follow ABC/NY on Twitter and Instagram for updates.

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