ACDA illustrates the glass ceiling

Here are some numbers from the list of choirs performing at the ACDA national conference next year:

  • Of the eleven Headliners, only the Muungano National Choir of Kenya is conducted by a woman.
  • All three of the “Great Composers [did they mean conductors?] on Great Music” are white men.
  • Of twenty-two Performing Choirs, eight are conducted by women: three children’s choirs, one middle school, one high school mixed choir and one high school women’s choir, one college women’s choir.
  • The single interest session choir is conducted by a man.
  • One of the six jazz night choirs is lead by a woman.

To sum up:

1 of 11 plus

0 of 3 plus

8 of 22 plus

0 of 1 plus

1 of 6 equals…


10 of 43 featured conductors are women.    Less than 25%.

I think it’s safe to say women are vastly underrepresented overall, especially among the most advanced and arguably prestigious choirs at the college and professional levels.  Among children’s choirs and women’s choirs, we’re doing okay; but these have the troubling color of niche-ism, of “women’s work,” with (again, arguably) less prestige than the other categories.

To sum up with slightly more sociopolitical flare: we’re underrepresented, and largely consigned to the ghetto of women and children.

On a related note, the Honor Choir Conductors work out the same way: two women, three men, and the women both conduct children’s groups: 4-5th grade mixed voices, and middle school girls. One of the men is conducting a boy’s choir, the other two are the high school and college/adult mixed groups.  Sigh.

I know the ACDA selection process for Performing Choirs is blind, so this isn’t even a case of Implicit Associations accidentally spilling sexism on us.  The selection of Headliners and other featured conductors does point to some possibility for conscious improvement; but at least I think the Performing Choirs point to a larger scale problem of women getting hired to conduct the more prestigious college and professional groups in the first place.  Or maybe encouraging them to apply to perform, be more involved.

I don’t have a nice conclusion to wrap this up.  It’s just some work that we have before us.

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4 Responses to ACDA illustrates the glass ceiling

  1. lorrainem9 says:

    Let’s all Tweet about it using @ACDANational and post about this on their Facebook page to let them know we need more women at ACDA Conferences. Also, as a National Association, they can be encouraging women conductors.

  2. amelianp says:

    @ACDANational’s last tweet was 2011. 😦
    It would be nice if there was a conversation, though.

  3. Susie Fergus says:

    Yes. I studied a 10-year history of this phenomenon for my master’s thesis, both for ACDA (division & national conferences) and OAKE national honor choirs. Your brief analysis here is spot-on….about a 75/25 ratio, except reversed for the children’s levels. There is MUCH work to be done. Congrats on a very succinct blog post here about this invisible issue.

  4. I have definitely noticed the trend of women conducting children’s choirs and/or women’s choirs more frequently than mixed groups at conferences- I would say, too, that we as teachers/mentors need to help our female students to remove their own “glass ceilings” in terms of what they believe is possible in their careers. Sometimes their long range plan or “highest vision” is not as ambitious, without some encouraging…

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