When I think of the word “diversity,” the picture I get in my head is of a disorganized garden plot. It is as if the planter of this garden threw all of the seeds out in handfuls, and carrots, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, and all kinds of other vegetables are growing up everywhere. It’s challenging to make sense of this garden in its entirety.
The broadness of the word diversity is difficult to negotiate—ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, political viewpoint, class and many other facets are all grouped together under the diversity umbrella.
Diversity is a state, a way of being or thinking, something that we recognize when we see it or experience it. It has no inherent goal, making it hard to strategize and take action.
If the point of discussion is to move toward meaningful change, I feel that the variety of experience encompassed in the word diversity is no longer helpful. Instead, I think it’s time to zero in on the specific, and use new words. I’d like to see the Bay Area theatre community discuss gender equity.
If I’m still imagining a garden, but now a “gender equity” one, I see two crops growing in equal numbers, each getting the same amount of space, and each receiving the same amount of sunlight and water.
The inherent goal in the word equity is clear and reasonable. 50/50. It’s countable and measurable.
We as a community can look at where we are right now in our staff and board, our artists, our production teams. We can think about new and creative ways to incorporate women into the work we do and make, whether that’s cross-gender casting, nurturing a newer artist, or doing some vigorous dramaturgy and unearthing a rarely produced author from an earlier time. We can share our gender equity commitment with our audiences and find new ways to involve them in the conversation.
We can come back next year, in five years, in 10 years, and easily and efficiently check in on how we are doing.
This doesn’t mean setting aside other types of diversity. Increasing the number of women in theatre can also increase and give voice to diverse ethnicities, ages, types of physical ability, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, political viewpoints, classes, etc.
I hope that shifting the conversation in this way provides a clearer path forward and allows us to move from discussion to action and ultimately diversify the work in the region, keeping live theatre vital and relevant for generations to come.