Women represent more than half of the national population, yet the percentage of women in leadership roles within the field of opera is comparatively small. OPERA America is addressing these issues by convening a group of stakeholders (female and male) to explore and work actively to advance gender parity field-wide. This page provides general resources for the public and specific resources for OPERA America members.

OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network works to:
  • Increase awareness of and discussion about diversity and gender parity in the field.
  • Create action plans to promote the advancement of talented women.
  • Become a source of support for emerging female professionals.

Join the Network
Anyone affiliated with the opera industry and interested in the goals of the Women’s Opera Network is invited to join the official Facebook group for OPERA America's Women's Opera Network.

Any current member of OPERA America may join the Women’s Opera Network Listserv. Simply email SCarter@operaamerica.org to be added.

Not an OPERA America member? Join today.

WON Mentorship Program
The Mentorship Program for Women, established at the recommendation of the Women’s Opera Network, is an ongoing initiative to promote the advancement of women leaders in the field of opera administration. This program provides a unique opportunity for the most promising female professionals to be paired with administrative leaders who can help them achieve their professional growth goals.

In January 2018, the program was launched with three protégés who were each paired with a mentor for 12 months. Protégés are selected based on their demonstrated career arcs and potential to make significant contributions to the opera field. Mentors are selected by OPERA America based on the career tracks and needs of the protégés. Mentors share their knowledge and experience to guide protégés in a positive and nurturing environment, while identifying barriers and achievement gaps.

More information on the Mentorship Program, including application information, can be found here.

Suggested Reading and Resources

Research and Data
Women make up a majority of the U.S. population (50.8 percent), earn almost 60 percent of all undergraduate and graduate degrees and earn 47 to 48 percent of all law and medical degrees. Although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions. They represent only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. They hold just 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats and continue to earn only 71 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts in all leadership positions.

OPERA America did two preliminary research surveys about women in leadership roles within our membership as a representation of the field of opera: one specifically of general directors/CEOs and one for all leadership positions (e.g., divisional directors, artistic leaders). Both surveys span from 1990 to current 2015 data.

Click on any chart to open in a new window.

The results show that historically there remains a static, very low (less than 8 percent) ratio of female general directors at the companies with the largest budgets (Level 1).

The GD/CEO percentages at Level 2 and Level 3 companies have shown more variance but remain on average between 17 to 21 percent over the last 16 years.

The place where there has been the most significant increase in leadership gender parity is at the Level 4 companies (those with the smallest budgets), which are often organizations founded by women. The historic average is over 38 percent, and in 2015, 49 percent of Level 4 GD/CEOs are women.

This data is less encouraging, showing an actual decline in the number of women in leadership positions at all levels of opera companies over the last 16 years. While the general numbers seem to indicate a steady increase in female leaders, the ratios to male leaders in the same positions show a decrease of between 4 to 8 percent from 1990.

The graphs below show the statics and percentages, followed by links to the detailed findings from several other resources that present research on women in leadership roles in other sectors of the arts.

[Click any graph to open in a new window]

Women in Leadership Positions at
North American Opera Companies, 1990-2015
1990 1999 2008 2015
Leadership Positions General Directors Leadership Positions General Directors Leadership Positions General Directors Leadership Positions General Directors
Level 1 Male 55 (66%) 12 (92%) 83 (66%) 15 (100%) 99 (73%) 12 (92%) 122 (74%) 14 (93%)
Female 28 (34%) 1 (8%) 42 (34%) 0 37 (27%) 1 (8%) 43 (26%) 1 (7%)
Level 2 Male 60 (62%) 15 (79%) 75 (59%) 10 (67%) 127 (63%) 22 (91%) 136 (64%) 21 (78%)
Female 37 (38%) 4 (21%) 53 (41%) 5 (33%) 75 (37%) 2 (9%) 79 (36%) 6 (22%)
Level 3 Male 46 (56%) 15 (75%) 60 (56%) 15 (75%) 75 (68%) 15 (94%) 82 (63%) 20 (87%)
Female 37 (44%) 5 (25%) 49 (44%) 5 (25%) 35 (32%) 1 (6%) 48 (37%) 3 (13%)
Level 4 Male 89 (61%) 30 (69%) 123 (63%) 32 (59%) 151 (65%) 38 (67%) 192 (66%) 40 (51%)
Female 56 (39%) 13 (31%) 73 (37%) 23 (41%) 82 (35%) 19 (33%) 101 (34%) 38 (49%)
Canada Male 23 (54%) 6 (67) 47 (71%) 7 (59%) 56 (67%) 12 (71%) - -
Female 20 (46%) 3 (33%) 24 (29%) 4 (41%) 27 (33%) 5 (29%) - -

Support the Women's Opera Network and the Mentorship Program by contributing to Backstage Brunch: Women in Opera.

Steering Committee

Laura Lee Everett, Co-chair
Chief Programs Officer OPERA America

Nicole Ambos Freber, Co-chair
Director of Development Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Cheryl Hickman, Co-chair
General Director Opera on the Avalon

Karen Slack, Co-chair
soprano independent artist

Stacy Brightman
VP, LA Opera Connects LA Opera

Clare Burovac
Director of Artistic Operations Portland Opera

Annie Burridge
General Director Austin Opera

Ana De Archuleta
President and CEO ADA Management

Carol Domina
Trustee Opera Omaha, Metropolitan Opera

Miah Im
Head of Music staff Los Angeles Opera

Jessica Jahn
Costume Designer independent artist

Barbara Lynn Jamison
General Director Kentucky Opera

Laura Kaminsky
Composer independent artist

Peggy Kriha Dye
General Director Opera Columbus

Ashley Magnus
General Director Chicago Opera Theater

Kristine McIntyre
Stage Director independent artist

Karen Quisenberry
Director of Production Minnesota Opera

Jeri Sedlar
Board of Overseers OPERA America

Kathryn Smith
General Director Madison Opera

Talise Trevigne
Singer independent artist

Alejandra Valarino Boyer
Director of Programs & Partnerships Seattle Opera


Francesca Zambello
Artistic Director Washington National Opera
Artistic & General Director Glimmerglass Festival

OPERA America Staff

Sarah Carter
Director of Learning and Leadership

Marc A. Scorca

Members of the Steering Committee and Advisors are available to be a resource for advice to rising female leaders in the field. Please contact them through the email addresses provided above.

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