Pay Transparency In Theatre: The Campaign To Playbill For Equity
An open letter to Playbill has been released by a national network of theatre workers in the USA, requesting that clear rates of pay are required on all jobs. The organisations are gathering signatures of support in ensuring Playbill’s job site embraces pay transparency.
Why is pay transparency important?
Several requests have been made to Playbill in recent years; Costume Professionals for Wage Equity got in touch back in 2019, while On Our Team and Costume Professionals for Wage Equity with support from Theatre Communications Group (TCG) also contacted Playbill to make the change prior to releasing the open letter.
The organisations explain that requiring clear rates of pay is part of a larger multi-faceted movement by On Our Team, Costume Professionals for Wage Equity, and in tandem with other national organisations, to remove gender and racial based pay disparity and build pay equity in the theatre industry.
Currently, Playbill allows job postings to list no or vague pay information including: “TBD,” “Depending on Experience,” and “Competitive Salary,” ambiguous terms that enable pay disparities based on gender, race, ability, and other biases.
“Requiring a clear rate of pay for all jobs listed on Playbill’s popular job site will promote pay transparency, help to reduce pay gaps based on biases, and combat deeply rooted pay inequity that subsidizes the industry and undermines the field’s potential diversity, sustainability, and artistic vitality,” – Elizabeth Wislar, co-founder of Costume Professionals for Wage Equity.
Reports acknowledge that there is often a disparity between pay in the theatre, that is not based on a meritocracy but underlying inequality that is pervasive thanks to pay secrecy – often this disproportionately affects marginalised groups. A report from September 2020 showed that “for every $1 spent on BIPOC actors, theatre companies spent $1.70 on white actors.” Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) Visibility Report: Racial Representation on New York City Stages
The impact of embracing pay transparency
In 2018, Chicago-based OffStageJobs was one of the first major theatre job sites in the United States to require clear rates of pay on all listings with their “Post-The-Pay” rule. According to Patrick Hudson, founder and owner of OffStageJobs, “as other sites adopted similar rules, posting the pay is now nearly an industry standard. It’s easy, it’s fair, and frankly, it saves time with the application process.”
“There’s no point in applying for a job, getting an interview, and then finding out the pay is less than you are already making. That just wastes everyone’s time.”
After OffStageJobs initiated their policy change, On Our Team successfully campaigned for the League of Chicago Theatres to adopt the policy, and the advocacy work of Costume Professionals for Wage Equity has built an environment where others have adopted the policy as well. Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres explains:
“The League changed our policy for our on-line job listings site in February of 2020 to require all postings to include a specific salary or a salary range. This change was met with appreciation from job seekers in our industry and our member theatres have found that the policy is helpful in finding the right candidate. Pay transparency in our job listings has made our community stronger.”
Playbill is the last major theatre industry job site in the United States without a requirement for clear rates of pay. Meanwhile, the need for a more diverse and equitable arts industry has become more urgent and apparent than ever. On Our Team and Costume Professionals for Wage Equity are calling on Playbill to join the ranks in championing the arts by helping to create a more honest and equitable theatre industry.
Wage transparency is an important first step towards pay equity, living wages, and removing the economic barrier to a career in the arts.
“When pay information isn’t required on industry job postings, job sites ensure that theater companies are free to offer workers an inequitable rate and is why job boards that require clear rates are so crucial to building equity in the industry” – Elsa Hiltner, co-founder of On Our Team.
Playbill CEO, Philip S. Birsh
Playbill COO, Alex Birsh
Playbill.com Director, Andrew Ku
& Playbill Staff
On Our Team and Costume Professionals for Wage Equity are writing to request that Playbill.com take a stand against unfair wages and predatory practices by requiring all job postings on the site include a clear and transparent rate of pay. In doing so, Playbill would join the movement of creating a more honest and equitable employment environment in the arts.
Concealment surrounding pay exacerbates the gender and racial pay gaps by rewarding job seekers who are able to aggressively negotiate or who have a history of a higher wage – a system that leaves women and marginalized populations at a serious disadvantage. Playbill’s continued facilitation of pay secrecy perpetuates an arts community made up of the few people who are privileged enough to have a low (or no) personal bottom line. Transparency of pay will help organizations fulfil their missions of diversity and inclusion by levelling the playing field and eliminating unconscious biases.
We ask that Playbill become a true ally to artists of all backgrounds, abilities, and identities by immediately enacting a policy that will help make homogenized theatre workforces a thing of the past.
To add your name, you can complete the form here.