Gender gap in professional symphonies

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Gender gap in professional symphonies

Ruth Davidson, Copy Editor

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In many different professions, there is a gender gap in pay between males and females. Professions such as real estate agents, financial advisors, and retail sales workers are all places where the gap is large, and the pay favoring men over women. Despite these well-known controversial professions, many people are unaware of the pay gap in professional symphonies.

Across the country, the ratio of males to females in professional symphonies is on average 63% men and 37% women. With the gender gap in the number of people playing with professional symphonies, there also comes a gender gap with pay.

In a recent lawsuit by Elizabeth Rowe to the Boston Symphony (BSO), one of the five major symphonies in the US, filed a lawsuit against the BSO seeking back $200,000 for all the money she has lost over the 14 years that she has been in the symphony. She was 29 years old when she was hired, and it was no small task landing the job in the symphony. Over the years, she has been paid, on average, about $64,451 less than the principal oboist, who is a male.

The BSO defended their position by saying that the oboist more musically important than the flutist, which is why he should get paid more. The oboe may be responsible for tuning the orchestra but that does not mean the oboist should get paid more, for just being a male.

In investigating this large gap between men and women in the classical music world, the Washington Post found that only 14 of the 78 musicians in the top five orchestras who are earning enough to be listed on the tax filings are women.

Many women in professional symphonies have spoken out about the gap. Sharon Sparrow, the principal flute in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra said, “The numbers don’t lie. Statistically, it does seem there’s a problem. If she [Rowe] were a man hired for this job, she would have been paid the same amount. But she’s not and she’s a woman, and she’s been paid less.”

The numbers don’t lie. Statistically, it does seem there’s a problem. If she [Rowe] were a man hired for this job, she would have been paid the same amount. But she’s not and she’s a woman, and she’s been paid less.”

— Sharon Sparrow

Noah Vance, who enjoys listening to music, said this about the gender gap, “Salary should be based on the quality of the music, not the gender of the musician.” Being paid to be a classical musician, especially one in a professional symphony, should be a process that has less do to with gender and more to do with the skills of the player.

Speaking of the way women work in the classical music world, Varun Vedula said, “I think the process should be started from when kids are young. Encourage young girls to pursue the professional life instead of possibly becoming moms and trying to work professionally to. Doing both can be done, but if women had more opportunities to stay in the professional orchestras then there would be less of a gap.”

Although the lawsuit has not been fulfilled and no results have been determined, the gender gap in professional symphonies does not need to continue. Women can earn equal pay being the same high level of musicians as men, and it will reflect in their pay. Gender should not determine the pay of anyone, in any profession.