Abbey Theatre announces eight guiding principles for Gender Equality

Abbey Theatre announces eight guiding principles for Gender Equality

Press release: 30.8.2016

Following consultation with key stakeholders within the Arts and theatre industry, the Abbey Theatre’s Gender Equality Committee has developed a set of guiding principles to ensure that Gender Equality is both embraced and enshrined at the national theatre.

Gender Equality Principles

1. Update the mission statement and other key documents within the Abbey Theatre to specifically reflect a goal of gender equality. The key documents include:

• The Mission Statement of the Abbey Theatre
• The Memorandum and Articles of Association

2. To put gender equality as a key board priority and responsibility, meaning that gender equality will become a permanent board agenda item with immediate effect.

3. The Abbey Theatre commits to continued gender equality at board level.

4. To achieve gender equality in all areas of the artistic programme over the next five years by presenting more work led by female theatre practitioners. Gender equality will be measured in five-year periods starting from 2017. There will be ongoing flexibility within programming for a given year but over the course of each five year period the artistic programme will achieve gender balance.

5. The Abbey Theatre commits to gender equality in the play commissioning process.

6. The Abbey Theatre undertakes to deliver a workshop programme for all employees, examining issues of gender equality in the workplace.

7. With a view to raising awareness of the career opportunities for women in theatre, the Abbey Theatre will create an annual programme for second level students within the National Theatre.

8. Progress made by our gender equality initiatives will be specifically reported in the Abbey Theatre’s Annual Report. This recommendation will ensure that both the focus and progress on achieving gender equality at the national theatre will be documented and detailed within the Annual Report thus ensuring that there is clear visibility on this journey. The 2016 Annual Report will contain the first update on gender equality.

Loretta Dignam, Chair of the Abbey Theatre’s Gender Equality Committee
‘The Abbey Theatre’s Gender Equality Committee has spent several months engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders, including staff and the new Directors of the Abbey Theatre, the wider theatre and Arts community in Ireland, the UK and the US. We have learned that gender equality is a complex issue in theatre globally. To really succeed, gender equality needs to become part of the DNA of an organisation, with a stated goal, clear actions and accountability. In order for the Abbey Theatre to achieve gender equality, change is required in several areas simultaneously. We believe that this comprehensive set of principles encapsulates the change that’s required.’

Bryan McMahon, Chairman of the Board of the Abbey Theatre
‘Last November, the Abbey Theatre addressed the lack of gender equality in the context of our Waking the Nation programme for 2016. We welcomed the debate and discussions that followed and the Waking the Feminist event on the Abbey stage. A committee of the board recommended comprehensive principles, which the board accepted as suitable guides in the key areas that needed to be addressed. These principles will ensure that the Abbey Theatre continues to lead the way in achieving a shift towards gender equality in the Irish theatre and Arts sector. The board is grateful to the Gender Equality Committee for their exceptional work on this matter.’

Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, Directors Designate of the Abbey Theatre
‘It is exciting to be arriving into an organisation that is committed to gender equality. It is a long-held value of ours. We welcome the committee’s recommendations – we believe that artists and audiences regardless of gender, sexual orientation, geography, ethnicity and wealth should have access to their national theatre.’


Róisín McGann, Press Manager at the Abbey Theatre at or on 00 353 86 770 7343.


Gender equality: In December 2015, the Board of the Abbey Theatre established a sub-committee to develop a gender-equality policy for the Abbey Theatre. The members of the Gender Equality Committee are Loretta Dignam (Chair), Deirdre Kinahan, Niamh Lunny and Mark Ryan.

Directors Designate: Graham McLaren and Neil Murray began their contracts as Directors Designate on 4 July 2016. Fiach Mac Conghail continues in his role as Director / CEO of the Abbey Theatre until his contract ends on 31 December 2016. The Directors Designate and Fiach Mac Conghail will work closely together in this crucial six month handover period. Graham McLaren and Neil Murray assume their roles as Directors on 1 January 2017.

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