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Disparities persist in traditionally female-dominated fields

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Posted at 10:58 AM, Jan 24, 2023

Great efforts have been made to close the gender pay gap. But not all fields of work are created equally.

Alexandra Light, who has been doing ballet since she was two years old, says even the dance world is dominated by men at the top.

“A lot of people on the outside of the dance world still don’t realize," she said. "In the industry, it’s still very much a boys’ game."

Tracey Rockett, who teaches management practice at Texas Christian University, said she can point to any number of studies that show the wide gulf between women and management. That gulf persists even in fields dominated by women.

“In public schools, for instance, men make up the minority of teachers, but to keep them, very often, they will be offered promotion opportunities much earlier than women are,” Rockett said, “You see that in the restaurant industry, in education, in healthcare, and in dance.”

According to the Dance Data Project, among the largest 150 ballet companies in America, a quarter of works produced last year were choreographed by women.

Light is a principal dancer. She’s at the front of the room, but she knows the hurdles in reaching a position where she’s at the front for good.

“You know, there's a choreographic workshop, and you don't sign up for that because you're like, ‘Well, I need to, I need to dance,’” Light said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women quit the workforce in larger numbers. They reported larger rates of burnout while taking on the extra burden of child care. At companies where women often take the lead on efforts of diversity and equity, they typically don’t get additional pay or substantial recognition.

But Rockett sees hope in Light’s generation.

"That is one thing we are seeing in particular with Gen Z. They will leave, and they will leave without a backup job. They will leave without a plan. If they're dissatisfied, they're going to take off,” Rockett said.

“I think a lot of dancers sort of face it at some point that, you know, there’s a lot of problems with our career. Like, we love dance so much, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Light said, “Even when I was a little kid, I loved choreographing. I would go with my best friend. We would go down to the dance studio together and bring my boombox. As I got into my professional career, it completely waned.”

Light took the path she was steered to take, but she has plans to go beyond that path.

“I have goals for where I want to be in the future, but I’m really proud of where I am now,” Light said.