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Data-Driven Report Provides Baseline to Assess Diversity in Technical Theatre Field

Entertainment Design & Technology Workforce Demographics Study, 2020

Arts, culture, arts education, and creativity are major contributors to quality of life, and the arts and culture sector is an important part of the economy. This study was undertaken by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc. (USITT) to better understand the demographic makeup of the technical theatre workforce. This information can be a key tool to help organizations understand the baseline from which progress can be measured in terms of creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive industry.

“USITT and many of our partner organizations along with corporations, universities, and producing entities across the country have a stated goal of creating and sustaining a more diverse and inclusive workforce,” noted USITT Executive Director David Grindle. “But while we have found many studies that look at demographics of performers and art support organizations, we could not find any that focused solely on the workforce in design, technology, and management."

“We felt that USITT should fill that void,” Grindle said, “and establish a baseline from which our industry can measure the effectiveness of equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.”

Key Findings

  • With a total membership base of 3,000, the study received responses from approximately 59% of USITT members.  
  • Three in four respondents stated that their role in the technical theatre industry is also their primary career. 
  • Seventy four percent of respondents indicated that, since March 2020, COVID-19 has affected their employment situation. 
  • People of color account for 13% of the staff at participating technical theatre organizations. This compares to 40% POC in the national workforce. 
  • Specifically, 2% of respondents selected “Hispanic/Latino(a)” while represented in the national population at 18%; 2% selected “Black” compared to 12% of the population; and 2% selected “Asian” compared to 6% of the population. 
  • Five percent of respondents are immigrants, reporting a country of origin outside the United States. These respondents represent 50 different countries. 
  • For participating organizations, over one third of the workforce is under 35 years old, indicating a workforce comprised of individuals who may be just starting their careers. 
  • Younger respondents tend to be more racially diverse, with 17% of the 15-34 age group identifying as a person of color or multi-racial, compared to 14% of those in the 35-49 age group and 7% of those 65 and older. 
  • Younger respondents experienced the largest gap between percent employed in March 2020 and currently employed, with more not yet finding employment in 2021.
  • Respondents self-identified as 51% male, 43% female, and 5% genderqueer/gender non-conforming. Three percent of individuals surveyed identified as transgender. This can be roughly compared to gender composition of the general population using Census definitions, which is a 49/51 split between male and female. 
  • Thirty-one percent of respondents identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other. This can be compared to the results from the US Census Household Pulse Survey, which found that 10% of the U.S. population responded as “Gay or lesbian”, “Bisexual”, or “Something else” when asked the question “Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?” As such, the rate of LGBTQ respondents in this study is over three times the baseline rate from the US Census Household Pulse report. 
  • Eleven percent of respondents chose to identify their sexual orientation in a way that was not in the survey 
  • Twenty-two percent of respondents identify as a person with a disability. This can be compared to the CDC results, finding 26% of adults in the U.S. have some form of disability. 
  • Overall, respondents were most likely to have a salary of $50,000 to $74,999. Roles in the theatre business professional category result in higher median salaries of $75,000-$99,999. 
  • In all roles except General and Artistic Management, male respondents reported higher median salaries than female respondents in the same role type. 

This study is an important tool to assess diversity within technical theatre field in its current state, providing a baseline to track changes over time. While the impacts of COVID-19 on our society and the performing arts sector specifically are not yet fully known, especially given the rise in the Delta Variant of the virus, this data does shed light on early impacts from the pandemic. Moving forward with attention paid to equity and diversity is essential for the sector, ensuring the communities that make up our society feel welcome and are able to contribute to the important work of the technical theatre field. 


USITT has pledged to repeat the study in five years to measure diversification trends in the industry workforce.


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