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New competition launched at UAL to mentor tomorrow’s female arts leaders

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Published date 08 March 2016

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It’s a pattern that has steadily grown. Increasing number of female arts graduates, should mean an in increase in women working in the arts.

But the numbers paint a very different picture.

Research shows that approximately only 30 per cent of artists represented by galleries in London are female and British Theatre Consortium statistics assert that only 31% of professional playwrights are female.

It was this gender gap that inspired the launch of a brand new scheme – ‘University Women in the Arts’ – that took place at Central Saint Martins, UAL and is designed to mentor female University arts students to take up leadership roles in the arts.

Mentor 1

©Ivan Jones

Open to all female students studying the arts at University level – 10 participants will be selected to be mentored over the course of a year by 12 women who are leading the way in the arts in the UK.

The scheme is run by the new MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London at UAL’s Central Saint Martins, the Women of the Future Programme and Writers at Work Productions, in association with Tonic Theatre.

Mentor 3

©Ivan Jones

Jennifer Tuckett, Course Leader for MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London at UAL’s Central Saint Martins said:

“I think it’s incredibly important to provide mentoring opportunities for young women wanting to work in the arts.

“It’s shocking how different the figures are – over 70% of women studying the arts at the UAL are women. We want to explore whether the drop off in numbers once women make the transition from studying to working in the arts is due to lack of mentorship, a previous lack of examples women can follow as they negotiate their career paths, family reasons, the insecurity in the industry, confidence or another reason.”

Jennifer Tuckett

Jennifer Tuckett

Jennifer goes on to say:

“Lucy Kerbel’s research from Tonic Theatre showed that in 2013, 59 per cent of Directing course graduates were women – but only 24 per cent of working directors were women, which is a huge difference.

“Over 70 per cent of our students at UAL are female, but in all areas of the arts there seems to be far fewer women than men.

“For the first time, the University Women in the Arts will investigate the reasons for this gender gap and hopefully, in doing so, get us thinking about how we can address this.”

©Monica Alcazar-Duarte

©Monica Alcazar-Duarte

Pinky Lilani CBE DL, founder of The Women of the Future Programme, said:

“The Women of the Future Programme is honoured to be working with Central Saint Martins, UAL on a programme that is crucial to helping women achieve their potential. Mentorship is pivotal to career success. ”

Another one

©Ivan Jones

Lucy Kerbel, founder of Tonic Theatre, said:

“I think this scheme is a brilliant idea. Young women who are keen to build careers in the arts often have to look harder for role models than their male counterparts. Consequently, a programme such as this which connects female students with trailblazing women is hugely valuable because it makes it all the easier for them to visualise themselves in top roles.

“Furthermore, hearing in detail how these women have achieved the success they have, and being able to begin to translate that to their own artistic and professional journeys is something that could make all the difference to a young woman when navigating the tricky initial steps into her career in the arts.”

In addition to the mentoring opportunity for 10 female students, there will also be public events over the course of the next year which anyone can attend.


©Ivan Jones

“Being a woman means being collaborative. This is something the Women of the Future Programme, who are one of the partners on University Women in the Arts, have spoken about a lot and which really interests me. To advance gender equality, they talk about how it seems to be most helpful when women use their innate skills at collaboration and kindness towards one another. I think that’s fascinating research they’ve done.

Mentors of the University Women in the Arts include: Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director of the English National Ballet Tamara Rojo, Managing Director of Penguin Books Joanna Prior and film producer of the Harry Potter films amongst other films and former Head of the Film Fund at the UK Film Council Tanya Seghatchian.

Find out more University Women in the Arts scheme here.