The gender gap revisited

In Issue 100 of Circa (summer 2002), Hilary Robinson was asked to review the magazine’s coverage and treatment of gender in issues 1 to 99. She produced a statistical, quantitative survey, and concluded that, on the whole, women artists were under-represented in Circa . To monitor progress since issue 99, we have produced a similar survey of issues 100 to 119, and in order to determine whether the magazine’s treatment and coverage of gender has changed over the past five years, it is worth briefly outlining some of Robinson’s findings.


Of the total number of artists featured in issues 1 to 99, only 36% were women. Women artists were given 21% of the solo-artist feature articles, and their work was reviewed in 36% of the solo artist reviews. In group reviews and group features, just over a third of the artists mentioned were women. Futhermore, only 32% of the photographs and 28% of the front covers featured the work of women artists. Lastly, 41% of the contributers to issues 1 to 99 were women, and Robinson noted that the percentage of women writing exceeded the percentage of women artists being written about.

For the most part, we used the same categories as Robinson did in her survey. Solo artist features and solo artist reviews list the number of artists given feature articles and reviews to themselves. In group reviews and group features we included all artists who were mentioned or whose work was discussed, but we did not include artists who were merely listed as examples or participants. See was a preview column, written by an editorial advisor, which was dropped from the magazine after issue 111. Artist’s pages refers to all page-projects by artists, and these images were not then included in the total number of images .


Overall the representation of women artists has improved in issues 100 to 119. The number of women given features as solo artists has almost doubled, from 21% to 40%. On the other hand, the percentage of women included in group features has diminished from 35% to 31%. This indicates that women artists are more likely to feature in the magazine as solo artists than within a group.


In issues 100 to 119 the number of female artists mentioned in group reviews has increased by just 7%, from 34% to 41%, whilst the number of women artists given solo reviews has increased by a much greater percentage, from 36% to 52%. Again, these figures suggest that women are more likely to be reviewed as solo artists than as part of a group. One could perhaps infer from this that it is, relatively speaking, more common for women artists to exhibit on their own than as part of a group exhibition.


We have divided images into several categories, and within each there have been significant increases in the number of images featuring the work of women artists. In her analysis of issues 1 to 99, Robinson felt that the number of women with work on the front cover of the magazine (23%) was “truly embarrassing.” The front cover is perhaps the most significant illustration and we were pleased to find that in issues 100 to 119, 50% of images on the front cover featured the work of female artists. Similarly, the number of women whose work featured on artist’s pages increased from 38% to 50%, and within the artists with photos category, the number of women who had work illustrated in the magazine increased from 31% to 44%.


As in Robinson’s analysis, the most evenly balanced category in terms of gender is the total number of writers . The number of women writers who contributed to Circa increased slightly, from 41% to 44%. More significantly, whilst the percentage of women writers still exceeded the percentage of women artists being written about, 45% of the writers and 43% of the artists were women: the gap between them was much less than it was in issues 1 to 99.


Finally, we decided to include advertisements in our survey because we felt that they offered an insight, albeit a limited one, into the gender balance within the Irish art scene. As the advertisements are not subjected to editorial control, they offer a means of comparing the number of women artists represented in art exhibitons with the representation of women artists in Circa . 43% of the advertisements published in issues 100 to 119 advertised women artists, either as individuals or within a group. This figure directly correlates to the overall percentage of female artists featured in the magazine. Although the advertisements are by no means representative of the number of female artists practising in Ireland, the correspondance between these two figures suggests that Circa has, to a certain extent, got the gender balance right.


In conclusion, our figures show that the coverage and treatment of women artists in Circa has clearly improved in issues 100 to 119. Although we would like to see a stronger female presence in group features and group reviews, we feel that Circa has made significant progress in reducing the gender gap. Cristina Martín de Vidales is a History of Art graduate. Sophie Nellis is a recent graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and is currently living in Paris.


Cristina Martín de Vidales is a History of Art graduate.
Sophie Nellis is a recent graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and is currently living in Paris.



Reprinted from Circa 120, Summer Issue 2007, pp. 40 - 41