Women performers as workers : gender in relation to aspects of industrial relations in theatre and television
Performing has been a formally unsegregated occupation for almost 350 years and the achievement of status by its women workers is accepted and expected. However, existing quantitative data indicate that systemic gendered disparities exist in relation to access to work, pay and career longevity. As this is an under-researched occupation the aims of the thesis are first, to map central aspects of the working realities of women performers working in subsidised theatre and terrestrial television in the UK and second, to explore perceptions of women performers’ gendered disadvantage in relation to these aspects. These aims are pursued principally through analysis of semi-structured interview data. As part of the primary aims, the purchase of strategies of legal, social and individual regulation is examined in relation to gendered disadvantage. Consideration of data is structured by work on ideas of gender and the labour process; this work is itself addressed through examination of the woman performer’s working experiences and the ways in which these are perceived by the main participants in these experiences. The study finds effective gender segregation, even more finely segregated by overt classifications of age, appearance, race/ethnicity and status. These classifications, allocated by individual perception, are found to frame the working realities of women performers and result in both systemic advantage and, more commonly, disadvantage. The effects of these perceptions are enhanced by the distinctive characteristics of this occupational sector, its labour markets and labour processes. Analysis of these issues leads to discussion of two key suppositions: that women performers inevitably collude in the perpetuation of their own constraints and that the central work experiences of women performers are manifestations of their position as formal and informal proxies for women’s experiences in wider society.