If we want to achieve gender equality, we need to start acting!

Equality seminar: If we want to achieve gender equality, we need to collect data and start acting!

Gender Equality in the cultural and creative sectors was discussed in Tampere when an international seminar Hän – Equality, Culture and Woman was held in Tampere Hall on December 3rd. The seminar was organised by the Tampere European Capital of Culture 2026 -project and it presented some results of the European Commission project Voices of Culture.

Gender gaps exist in nearly all cultural fields in the world and across the member states of EU. In Finnish language a pronomin ”hän” (he/she) doesn’t make any difference between men and women, but even in Finland we still struggle with inequality.

Else Christensen-Redzepovic
Else Christensen-Redzepovic


In the seminar held in Tampere Else Christensen-Redzepovic from the Voices of Culture -project pointed out that women are still underrepresented in the workforce, mainly in creative jobs and in leadership and decision-making positions. They are also paid less than their male colleagues.

Access of female artists to resources and to the art market is often limited and the conditions on the labour market make women artists particularly vulnerable. Also gender stereotypes and sexual harassment are still widely taking place.

European Union has many good strategies and policies to achieve gender equality. Even The European Commission is adobted a Gender equality strategy that is aiming at full gender equality.

– In spite of that inequality still exists and has even increased in recent years, Christensen-Redzepovic said.
She found shocking that some EU-countries don’t even find gender equality worth talking about.

This autumn the European Comission project Voices of Culture was organised to create some dialogue between culture section and European Comission. The project had gender equality as a topic at a brainstorming meeting in Prague in September 2019.

35 representatives of European networks, organisations and institutions were selected in an open call to work on the topic and to put forward recommendation on policy, actions and projects to the European Commission and the Open Method of Coordination group in a Structured Dialogue that took place in Brussels on November 2019.

The priority was to find out how to ensure that women who work in the cultural and creative sectors have the same opportunities and rights as their male colleagues and increase awarenes on gender balance on culture and creative sectors.

Zita Holbourne (Barac UK, Artists Union England, Roots Culture Identity) Tamara Tatishvili (European women’s Audiovisual Network), Imogen Gunner (FairPlé) and Christine Langinauer (Culture for all) presented some interesting results of the Voices of Culture -project.

Zita Holbourne
Zita Holbourne


Some data is needed or problems stay invisible

Holbourne told about women’s access to the labour market and leadership positions. She told that women have problems especially in cultural and creative sector because the work in this field is very insecure and many structures are still very patriarchal.

Many women are also self-employed in this field, so it’s often hard to find any evidence of underrepresentation and discrimination even everybody knows the problems exist.

– Whenever we talk about it, evidence is requested, so it would be necessary to collect some data. Otherwise these women and their problems are invisible, Holbourne told.

According to Holbourne, many women work as freelancers and they are even expected to work for free just because they love what they are doing.

Women also have to deal with many barriers like how to combine their caring responsibilities and careers.

– In cultural sector it’s expected that people work around the clock.That’s not easy, if you are expected to take care of a child or for example your old parent, Holbourne told.

Tamara Tatishvili


Influence of stereotypes is ingrained in our brains

Tamara Tatishvili spoke about gender stereotypes, representation and role models in education and training.

-Monumental inlfuence of cultural stereotypes is ingrained in our brains from very early age, she told.

She thinks we should take measures to reduce limiting stereotypes, role models and misrepresentations that place and keep girls and women on the back seat of society.

The most important thing to do would be to train care providers, teachers, parents and all the gate keepers of the culture world and society.

– If we act right now, maybe the younger generation will be less influenced, she hoped.

The actions could be as simple as start to use gender neutral uniforms in schools or encourage companies to offer gender-neutral product options.

When it comes to culture she thought that the key factor would be to influence the gate keepers.

– Cultural boards are still mostly male dominated, she told.

Fighting stereotypes doesn’t mean we have to totally stop telling stories about princesses. The point is to offer also other options. Tatishvili pointed out Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls -book as a good example of what next generation’s role models could be.

Imogen Gunner
Imogen Gunner


We have to concentrate on boys

Imogen Gunner talked about sexual violece.

– Me too -campaign opened the Pandora box, but still very little has changed, she told.

Gunner admits that it’s important to support the victims of sexual violence, but even more important would be to learn to understand the issue and teach boys and men how to respect women and how to act when women say no.

One example of a good practice is an Indian children’s book that shows simple examples of what kind of touch feels ok and what kind of touch feels wrong.

– That’s an amazing resource, she told.

According to Gunner the only way to understand and stop the harassment is to collect data on it.

-It’s important to get the stories even though some people might think that we already have enough data on this subject, she said.

– We need more surveys, benchmarking and measuring to understand harassment.

Christine Langinauer
Christine Langinauer


We have to change discriminatory structures

Christine Langinauer talked about structural inequality.

– We need to identify, analyse and change discriminatory structures, she told.

She pointed out that norms are often unseen but most of the time they guide our decisions and actions.

– Equality will never be fully achieved if we live as we do right know.

– There are always privileged groups and less privileged groups, she told.

-We need to give extra support and help to some groups in order they can achieve the same level than the others.

Langinauer also pointed out that gender equality should not be a project but the basis for everything we do.

– We need to have short and long term objectives and clear gender agendas and strategies, she told.

– Gender equality should be part of all decision-making processes in a concrete way.

Also she underlined that it’s important to collect clear, transparent information and statistics. As an example of a good prctice she told that Michelle Millar Fisher, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made a public spreadsheet listing over 2500 museum salaries, family leave policies, educational requirements for positions etc.

– It’s important to make transparent and highligt the salary gaps and the other problems, she told.


Christian Veske
Christian Veske


Gender equality indexes show some hard facts

Christian Veske has been working for the European Institute for Gender Equality for seven years. The mission of the institute is to make research on gender equality in Europe.

Gender equality indexes that are made every year tells the decision-makers and EU-citizens where we are now in the field of equality in an easy way. https://eige.europa.eu/gender-equality-index/2019 The index has every year some specific focus. This year it was work-life balance.

The numbers show for example that Finland is one of the top European countries, but even we have still way to go. Finland gets 73,4 points, when 100 points would mean that we had nothing to improve.

All in all the index shows that Europe is moving forward, but unfortunately improvement is very slow.

– Change has been marginal in past 15 years, Veske told.

Text: Kaisa Järvelä

Photos: Emil Bobyrev


Zita Holbourne is an award-winning community and trade union activist, human rights campaigner, performancepoet, author, writer, visual artist, curator and vocalist. She campaigns for equality, freedom, justice and human rights through arts and activism.

Tamara Tatishvili comes from film funding & promotion background and has solid experience of working in European AV sector. In 2010-2013 she acted as Director of Georgian National Film Center; leading reform of the institution and initiating emergence of new wave of talented filmmakers. Tamara currently holds position of Strategy and Partnerships Manager at European Women’s Audiovisual Network.

Else Christensen-Redzepovic is expert/advisor on international cultural relations, EU processes, policies and instruments related to culture. She works with public authorities, networks, institutions, organizations and NGO´s on policy, strategy, governance and action for sustainable cultural and creative development. Else has track record in international project management and European Capitals of Culture bidding processes.

Imogen Gunner is a performer, composer, educator and civil rights activist. She draws on a wide range of experience in grassroots campaigning surrounding issues of gender equality and reproductive rights in Ireland, housing, ethnicity, migration, travellers’ rights, disability rights, and freedom of speech.

Christian Veske is the stakeholder relations officer at the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) which is the European Union body to give technical assistance on gender equality to the European Union institutions and European Union Member States.

Christine Langinauer is a curator, writer and researcher based in Helsinki, Finland. She is currently working as planner at the Culture for All service, a service that promotes accessibility, diversity and equal treatment within the arts and culture field.