Women Choral Conductors at the Collegiate Level: Status and Perspectives

October 1, 1993

Women Choral Conductors at the Collegiate Level: Status and Perspectives1

Women's Studies, now in its third decade, is no longer characterized by special interest groups orbiting only the most progressive or tolerant musical organizations. Across the nation, feminist scholarship continues to flourish, women augment and administer editorial boards and boards of directors, and universities incorporate Women's Studies in collegiate curricula. In these ways, the academic world is implementing its developing comprehension of equity in the collegiate environment, hopefully with lasting effects. All these advances notwithstanding, young women musicians still must search carefully to find female models in some areas of the college or university environment. In 1987, The College Music Society's Committee on the Status of Women in Music reported that only 14 percent of tenure-track, and 33.4 percent of non-tenure-track choral conducting positions at the collegiate level were held by women.2

The professional conducting world reflects a similar imbalance. According to J. Michele Edwards, "In 1988, twenty-four women held conducting posts with professional orchestras that are members of the American Symphony Orchestra League; yet, only two women have held even associate conductor positions with major symphonies in the U. S."3 In 1993, the Colorado Symphony (formerly the Denver Symphony Orchestra) broke ground in this area by hiring Marin Alsop as its principal conductor, the first woman to hold such a position in an orchestra of that size. Recently, the academic community has made similar strides, but the progress of women is slow, particularly in senior collegiate positions, which are vacated infrequently.

The point of departure for this study was practicalthe authors were interested in identifying U. S. institutions that granted doctoral choral conducting degrees and employed at least one female conductor on the faculty. After finding few such institutions by pursuing informal methods of inquiry, the present survey instrument was designed. Besides addressing the initial question, its purposes were to obtain more formal data regarding the status of female choral conductors in the collegiate environment, to obtain data regarding their backgrounds with the hope of identifying correlations between employment and background, and to obtain data, however subjective, regarding perspectives of females employed within the collegiate environment. No inference should be made from this study that the collegiate environment provides the only avenue by which a woman may advance in the professional world of choral conducting, a false premise negated by pioneers such as Elaine Browne, Gena Branscombe, Margaret Hawkins, and Margaret Hillis. Indeed, church choirs, community chorales, and symphony or opera choruses offer other equally valid paths by which conducting may be pursued by either gender. However, if a conductor aspires to pursue a career in the college or university setting today, some collegiate education is a prerequisite.


Statistical Basis

The survey entitled "The Current Status of Women Choral Conductors at the Collegiate Level" was mailed to each name on a list obtained from CMS Publications on November 5, 1991. The mailing list was generated from the database of the Directory of Music Faculties in Colleges and Universities, U.S. and Canada (1990-1992), a biennial publication representing post-secondary institutions in both countries. The 1990-92 edition of the Directory comprised approximately 29,663 music faculty, representing 1,745 post-secondary institutions in the U. S. and Canada.4

The mailing list for the study was created from CMS Publications' List 24, entitled "Directors of Performance Organizations-Choral," which was sorted according to sex and country. The resulting 601 names of women collegiate choral conductors in the United States represented 24.6 percent of the total of 2442 U. S. choral directors appearing in List 24.5 Although a comprehensive survey involving the other 1841 U. S. collegiate choral conductors—the males—and those of both sexes in Canada would also have yielded pertinent information, limiting the survey to women choral conductors at the collegiate level in this country satisfied the stated purposes of this study, and kept the costs and parameters of the project within a manageable range.6

Surveys were mailed on January 15, 1992. Included in the mailing was a cover letter printed on institutional stationery and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the return of the survey. The respondents were assured professional anonymity in the cover letter; postmarks on envelopes were examined only to determine the city and state of origin. The nation was divided into four regions:

Northeast—Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont.

North Central—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin.

South—Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington (DC), West Virginia.

West—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.

The last returned survey was received on March 15, 1992.


Areas Examined

1. Educational Background. The most important criterion, skill level, was impossible to evaluate in an anonymous mail survey. Therefore, measurable factors affecting the eventual acquisition of a collegiate choral conducting position, such as size, type, and identity of the conductors' terminal-degree-granting institutions, began the survey. The level of terminal degrees held by employed collegiate choral conductors could be determined, as well as whether the majority of positions were held by women with doctorates as terminal degrees. Delineations for the institutions by size and type were derived roughly from the Higher Education Arts Data Services7 (HEADS) Report of 1991-2:

A. Private Institution: fewer than 100 music majors,
B. Private Institution: more than 100 music majors,
C. State Institution: fewer than 200 music majors,
D. State Institution: 200-400 music majors, and
E. State Institution: more than 400 music majors.

2. Primary Mentors. In order to include mentors outside, as well as within the collegiate environment, the respondents were asked to supply the names of the two most influential choral conductors or role models with whom they had studied for a semester or more. The one-semester limitation was intended to discourage inclusion of one-day master class experiences, and to focus upon longer-term mentoring. Clearly, the names of mentors occurring most frequently among employed choral conductors would be useful information for a potential doctoral student pursuing a choral conducting degree. Additionally, the ratio of female to male mentors could be compared to the same ratio of total choral conductors.

3. Years of Experience. Longevity in the collegiate conducting position gives some indication of the rate and levels at which females are joining the work force. In addition to that data, respondents also supplied total years employed as a choral conductor, regardless of the conducting environment. Although total years employed was not used directly in this study, the question was intended to show positive regard for all avenues of conducting, particularly appropriate since males historically have held the majority of collegiate positions.

4. Employing Institution—Size/Type and Sex Ratio of Choral Faculty. As relevant as sheer numbers of employed females is the environment in which they work. The purpose of this survey question was to identify categories of institutions that were most likely to employ women choral conductors. Additionally, a relationship might be seen between size/type of institutions graduating high numbers of female choral conductors and those employing them. Male/female ratios would indicate whether females worked most often alone, or with co-workers of either sex.

5. Employing Institution—Graduate Program. Generally for the aspiring collegiate choral conductor, pursuing a graduate degree is a sine qua non. This question was intended to identify the number of females employed in institutions offering graduate programs, corresponding with one of the primary purposes of this study. In addition, the numbers and sexes of students enrolled in all Master's and Doctoral programs would indicate whether a concentration of female students has any relationship to the presence of females on the conducting faculty.



A pilot instrument was mailed to seven women collegiate choral conductors of various ranks, geographical locations, and longevity in the profession prior to the survey mailing. Suggestions made by those returning the pilot study were incorporated into the final form of the survey, but their responses are not reflected in the data.

The final survey began with seven objective questions addressing educational background and current employment status, followed by three questions regarding their perspectives. The authors believed that framing these three questions in an objective format, with possible answers included, might inhibit the spontaneity of the responses; therefore, these questions were open-ended. Responses do not appear in tables, but are discussed in the Summary below.




1. Where and when did you receive your degrees? Use letters from the chart below to indicate size and type of each degree-granting institution. Numbers should include graduate and undergraduate music majors.

A. Private Institution: less than 100 music majors.

B. Private Institution: more than 100 music majors.

C. State Institution: less than 200 music majors.

D. State Institution: 200-400 music majors.

E. State Institution: more than 400 music majors.

Bachelor's:   Year_____Name of School____________________Size______

Master's:      Year_____Name of School____________________Size______

Doctorate:    Year_____Name of School____________________Size______

2. Who are the two most influential choral directors/role models with whom you have studied or had contact for one semester or more?

3. For how many years have you been employed as a choral director?______
For how many years have you conducted at the college or university level?____

4. Please indicate the size of your present employing institution.

o A. Junior College

o B. Private Institution: less than 100 music majors.

o C. Private Institution: more than 100 music majors.

o D. State Institution: less than 200 music majors.

o E. State Institution: 200-400 music majors.

o F. State Institution: more than 400 music majors.

5. Please indicate the number of faculty choral conductors of each gender at your institution.

Female  ______    Male  ______

6. Does your employing institution have a graduate program in choral conducting?


If yes, continue to question seven. If no, skip to question eight.

7. What is the total number of graduate choral conducting majors in each of the following categories in your program? Please include students of all statuses, resident and non-resident. While enrollment may vary greatly from year to year, please use currrent numbers for the day you fill out the survey. If this information is not easily accessible, please skip to question eight.

Master's:  Number of men ______     Number of women  ______
Doctoral:  Number of men ______     Number of women  ______

8. If there are more students of one sex than the other in your program, do you have any suggestions as to the reason?

9. What has been the single greatest challenge to you in your pursuit of a collegiate conducting career?

10. Are there further comments you would like to make regarding this topic?

Of the 601 surveys mailed, 290 were eventually returned. Fourteen of those contained unusable information—two respondents identified themselves as males and twelve respondents were no longer actively conducting. Consequently, usable survey responses totaled 276, or roughly 47.0 percent of the surveys known to be usable. On each of the following tables, "N=276" is a reminder of the total number of usable, returned surveys. The proportion of usable surveys falls within percentages considered acceptable in National Faculty Surveys from 1955 to 1989, which range from 31.8 to 76.1 percent.8

Keeping in mind the potentially controversial nature of the topic, and considering not only that the survey's authors were unknown to most recipients, but also that no intrinsic reward beyond the research itself was present, the return rate was acceptable and within parameters considered adequate elsewhere.9 Without doubt, responses from 47 percent of the employed female collegiate choral conductors in the U. S. yielded valuable information on the status, backgrounds, and perspectives of the target group.

The South and North Central regions yielded the largest return rates: 33 and 32 percent, respectively, of the 276 usable responses. The West region accounted for 16 percent of the responses, while conductors in the Northeast returned the fewest number of responses, 14 percent. Four percent of the responses bore no postmark.

Several assumptions must be mentioned prior to a discussion of the survey results. First is the fact that CMS Publications reported an average of 2.2 teaching areas (e.g., studio voice and choral conducting) per faculty member during the years represented in the 1990-92 Directory. Consequently, List 24, which does not presume a primary specialty in choral music, may have included women primarily trained and teaching in other areas, and also conducting a choral group. Second, because females only were surveyed, responses such as "0 females" in questions regarding Faculty Sex Ratio could not occur. Finally, because of the confidential nature of the survey, whether any of the respondents taught at the same institution is unknown.



Responses to questions one and three through seven were tallied in five tables, and percentages were carried to the first decimal point.10

1. Educational Background. The data was sorted by respondents' terminal degrees (Table 1). Of the 276 women returning surveys, seven taught with the baccalaureate as the highest degree earned, 148 held a master's degree, and 120 held a doctoral degree. Ninety-four women, or 34.1 percent of the respondents, received their terminal degrees from state institutions with more than 400 music majors. Women holding terminal degrees from state institutions of any size were more than twice as numerous (194) as those holding terminal degrees from private institutions.



Educational Background of Respondents by Size and Terminal Degree

	Baccalaureate 	Master's 		Doctorate 	Total 
Private Institution with fewer than 100 music majors
 	3 		18 		2 		23 	  (8.4%) 
Private Institution with more than 100 music majors 
 	1 		28 		29 	 	58 	(21.0%) 
State Institution with fewer than 200 music majors 
 	2 		29 		7 		38 	(13.8%) 
State Institution with 200-400 music majors 
 	0 		39 		23 	 	62 	(22.5%)
State Institution with more than 400 music majors
 	1		34 		59 	 	94 	(34.1%)  

	____		 ____		 ____		 ____
	7 		148 		120		275

Did not indicate: 1
N = 276

2. Primary mentors. Of the 301 choral directors or role models named, forty-five (14.9%) are females, a percentage that falls well below the percentage of women among collegiate choral conductors in the country. The five names mentioned most often, in descending order of frequency, were Robert Shaw, Margaret Hillis, Don V Moses, Rodney Eichenberger, and Eph Ehly. In descending order of frequency after Margaret Hillis, the names of female conductors Charlene Archibeque, Ann Howard Jones, Fiora Contino, Colleen J. Kirk, and Frauke Haasemann appeared. Conducting environments ranged from solely academic to purely non-academic, and sometimes comprised a combination of the two.

3. Years of experience. Inquiring about the total years of experience was intended for background only and the results do not appear in a table, while results of the question concerning years of collegiate experience are shown in Table 2. Responses were sorted by five-year increments for the Table. The question included no parameters limiting the nature of the collegiate conducting experience, thus showing positive regard for non-faculty conducting such as teaching assistantship responsibilities. Approximately one-third of the total had entered the work force in the previous four years; 64.9 percent of the respondents had been teaching at the collegiate level for fewer than ten years. The historic dearth of women conductors in post-secondary institutions is reflected in the fact that only thirteen respondents, or 4.6 percent of the women returning surveys, had taught at a college or university for twenty-five years or more. The most frequently-reported number of years was three. Respondents had taught for an average of 8.6 years, with a standard deviation of 7.0.



Years of Conducting Experience at the College/University Level by Five-Year Increments

Years 		# of Respondents 		Percentage of Total  
0-4 		90 			32.8% 
5-9 		88 			32.1% 
10-14 		46 			16.7% 
15-19 		25 			  9.1% 
20-24 		12 			  4.3% 
25-29 		  6 			  2.1% 
30-34 		  7 			  2.5%

Did not indicate: 2
N = 276

4. Employing Institution—Size/Type of Institution and Sex Ratio of Choral Faculty. Of the 276 respondents, seven were employed part-time at two small schools each: this data is assigned a separate line in Table 3. Five of the 276 women who returned surveys, or 1.8 percent, taught at the largest state institutions. Those teaching at private schools with fewer than 100 music majors comprised 38.9 percent, the largest category, while 22.8 percent taught at junior colleges. Members of the next largest group, comprising 21.7 percent, were employed by state institutions having fewer than 200 music majors. Women employed by junior colleges and private institutions were more than twice as numerous (186) as those employed by state institutions of any size (90), even if those who did not answer the question (2) and those employed by two schools (7) are added to the state institution total.



Employing Institution by Size and Type

Junior College 					  61 		(22.8%) 
Private Institution, fewer than 100 majors 			104 		(38.9%) 
Private Institution, more than 100 majors 		  	  21 		  (7.8%) 
State Institution, fewer than 200 majors 		  	  58 		(21.7%) 
State Institution, 200-400 majors 			  18 		  (6.7%) 
State Institution, more than 400 majors 			    5 		  (1.8%) 

Did not indicate: 				    	    2 		    (.7%) 
Employed in two schools 			  	    7 		  (2.6%) 
N = 276


Regarding faculty sex ratio at the employing institution, 272 females reported 277 male co-workers, resulting in an approximate average of one male co-worker per female respondent (Table 4).11 The highest frequency of response came from females who had no other departmental co-workers, and women in two-member departments with one male co-worker. Together, these ratios make up 69.0 percent of the respondents; over two-thirds of the females returning the survey worked alone or in a two-member department. One hundred respondents (36.7%) worked in an environment with an equal number of male and female conductors.



Female/Male Faculty Sex Ratios at Employing Institution by Responses Received

1:0  95  (34.9%)			2:1  11  (4.0%)  
1:1  93  (34.1%)			2:2    6  (2.2%)
1:2  32  (11.7%)			2:3    5  (1.8%) 
1:3  16    (5.8%)			2:4    1    (.3%)  
1:4    2      (.7%)			2:5    2    (.7%)  
2:0    7    (2.5%)			2:8*  1    (.3%)
				4:4    1    (.3%)

Did not indicate:  4  (1%) 
N = 276
*Data from this respondent is somewhat misleading since it represents several extensions
included under the name of one large university. 


5. Employing Institution—Graduate Program. At the time of the survey, thirty-four of the 276 respondents taught in schools with graduate degrees in choral conducting—12.3 percent of the total women responding.12 These thirty-four graduate faculty members provided the database for the final table. Respondents who did not teach in a graduate program skipped the corresponding question. For the purposes of identifying the female/male ratio of enrolled graduate conducting majors, the total of thirty-four respondents teaching in graduate programs was reduced by six because three respondents did not supply those ratios and three respondents had no students enrolled at the time of the survey.13 The remaining twenty-eight faculty members represent 10.1 percent of the females returning the survey.

The eight entries in the right half of the table represent programs with both master's and doctoral candidates—each horizontal line shows one survey response. The left half of the table indicates Master's-only programs. In the schools represented, eighty males, or 67.2 percent of the 119 students represented, had opportunity to observe a woman conductor, while the total number of women students in graduate programs with women conductors was thirty-nine (32.9%), 8.7 percentage points higher than the percentage of women among choral conductors nationwide.



Male/Female Graduate Student Sex Ratio in Respondents' Employing Institutions Programs with Master's Degrees Only

Males 		Females
1		1			Programs with Master's and Doctorates 
1		0			
2		0			Master's 			Doctorates
1		0			Males	Females		Males	Females
3		3			2	1		1	0
2		0			3	0		4	0
2		0			5	3		8	5
1		1			2	1		1	0
1		0			3	2		1	0
5		2			4	3		1	0
0		1			2	0		2	1
1		0			2	1		1	1
1		2			23	11		19	7
5		4
4		2
3		4			Males 42 (70.0%)		Females 18 (30.0%)
2		0
0		1
2		0
1		0 
38 (64.4%) 	21 (35.6%)

Total Males in Programs with Female Faculty: 80 (67.2%) 
Total Females in Programs with Female Faculty 39 (32.8%) 
Did not indicate:  3
No students at time of survey: 3
N = 34


Perspectives—Sex Ratio Imbalance. The final three questions are not represented by numerical data. Some respondents answered in great detail, while others left the items unanswered. Understandably, these questions prompted a variety of answers, apparently based on a wide diversity of perspectives and experiences. Forty of the respondents, 14.5 percent, reported that no imbalance existed; however, the 12.3 percent employed in institutions with graduate programs expressed very different views. All the responses from graduate institutions indicated that a gender imbalance existed, with more men enrolled than women, an assertion supported by the data. Comments ranged from "few women are encouraged to conduct," and "fewer women pursue graduate degrees," to "a cultural bias exists for women conductors," and "men are valued more in leadership roles." The paucity of women mentors in higher education was also stated as a predominant concern. Statements such as—"[few] women role models [exist] for prospective female conductors to watch conduct and rehearse," "most conductors at festivals, All-States, and conventions are men," and "it appears to be a man's world at the top, so few women can be mentors"—characterize the responses of those concerned by numbers of female mentors.

Perspectives—Challenges. Again, the responses varied widely, extending from areas showing no relationship to gender issues, to those focused upon them. Six fortunate respondents stated that they had not encountered a significant challenge in pursuing a conducting career; rather, they had "fallen" into collegiate work or "obtained a job fairly easily after being a successful high school teacher." A more common response was that conducting was not the respondent's main focus, but rather, a secondary area in her career. This scenario was especially prevalent in smaller institutions. Of the 276 respondents, thirty-five (12.6%) indicated that they conducted choral music in addition to their primary area of specialization. Areas serving as springboards for work in the choral area include opera direction, piano performance, organ performance, music history, theology, music education, and vocal performance, the non-choral discipline cited by twenty-one (7.6%) of the respondents.

The challenge appearing most frequency was that of balancing career and family, expressed by nineteen women (6.8%). Single parenthood and resultant financial difficulties were also listed. Also with regard to the family, a reluctance to uproot children and/or spouses in order to advance to a better job was mentioned. Several women stated that their sense of loyalty to the family had kept them in current positions and out of the progression to a better job.

In overcoming cultural stereotypes, several respondents reported a difficulty in rejecting conventional gender-oriented attributes. Many expressed the need to exhibit stereotypical male behavior in order to succeed: "I have to be more like a man in order to get the job done." The scarcity of female role models in the professional/collegiate conducting world was mentioned in twenty-four responses to this question (8.6%).

Perspectives—Further Comments. Most respondents continued to address question nine in this space. Comments and suggestions in support of the survey and a subsequent publication were offered by forty-two respondents (15.2%). General comments included "we need more and better women conductors—the weak ones don't help," and "women need to display their collegiate choirs at national conventions." Other respondents offered observations: "at the last ACDA [American Choral Directors Association] convention, every choir performing was directed by a male—what gives?" and "employers are not hiring women for positions in the schools that can make an impact." Three respondents stated their belief that the situation was improving for women conductors, "but progress is slow." Several women offered specific examples of gender stereotyping that they had experienced: "I had people ask me what I was going to wear when I directed an all-male chorus," and "the audience commented on never having seen a woman conduct an orchestra."

With regard to student ratios in the graduate school environment, one respondent commented, "being the only female in the DMA program, I had to battle my own feelings of being 'left out—'so I developed a great desire to prove myself." Another woman eloquently expressed her views on women's self images: "women are their own worst enemies—we see ourselves as public school teachers and the big jobs go to men. It is a [combination] of subtle messages and low self-esteem. Women must promote women before anything will change. Women must be ready and excellent when the opportunities arise. There is a network of female conductors who are supportive and quite wonderful." Other comments include "gender is not a factor—competency is" and "if women are given proper training and equal consideration there is no reason they cannot make strides in the profession." Happily, several women exhibited a sense of belonging in an area they previously had felt was male-dominated: "at first I was unsure of how to be a conductor and a 'feminine' women, now I realize there is no conflict. The combination of strength and sensitivity needed for conducting is perfect for a woman."



1. Educational Background and Employing Institution. The data presented in Tables 1 through 5 clearly indicates that sex inequity persists in the field of collegiate choral conducting. To provide context and validation for the findings of this study, other databases have been consulted; for clarity's sake, the survey entitled "The Current Status of Women Choral Conductors at the Collegiate Level" will hereafter appear as the WCC survey.

Each year, member schools of the accrediting organization, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), are required to submit data such as faculty ranks and salaries and student demographics for compilation and dissemination. Non-member schools may volunteer to participate by submitting data, as well. The resultant statistics take on the name of the organization that compiles them, Higher Education Arts Data Services. Widely known as the HEADS Report, these compilations give as accurate a yearly account of NASM schools as is currently available.

The HEADS Report of 1991-2 presented data received from 542 institutions, 224 (41.3%) of which were private institutions having 100 or fewer music majors, 29 (5.3%) private institutions having 101 or more music majors, 206 (38.0%) public institutions having 200 or fewer music majors, 58 (10.7%) public institutions having between 201 and 400 music majors, and 25 (4.6%) institutions having more than 400 music majors.14 Therefore, the high percentage of women attending the largest state institutions presented in WCC Table 1 did not result from a high concentration of institutions in that category. On the contrary, 34.1 percent of the WCC respondents attended largest state universities, corresponding to 4.6 percent of the schools in the HEADS Report. These universities clearly are important venues in the pursuit of a graduate degree in music; yet, only 5 (1.8%) of the 276 females responding to the WCC survey were employed by institutions in that category (Table 3).

2. Primary Mentors. In Women of Academe: Outsiders in the Sacred Grove, Nadya Aisenberg and Mona Harrington assert that "women suffer chronically from the lack of professional mentors."15 Although many male professors "prize the work of women students . . . [they] do not take the next step . . . helping to launch them advantageously on their professional way."16 The frequency of academic male conductors in response to WCC Question Two suggests that males have been effective mentors in teaching female students to build a career. The question remains, however, whether male mentors encourage female conductors to pursue employment in the institutions—private or public—offering a doctoral degree, because only eight (2.8%) of the WCC respondents reported doctoral students enrolled. Because U. S. male collegiate choral conductors outnumber females three-to-one, the advancement of women relies heavily upon the demand of equity from their peers.

3. Years of Experience. In Chart 5, HEADS shows a total figure of 7893 faculty and in Chart 10, it provides data according to years of service.17 HEADS reported 26 percent of total music faculty had 1-4 years of service (7.8% female and 19.0% male) and 18.2 percent had 5-9 years of service (4.7% female and 13.5% male). The greatest disparity between sexes occurred under the 10+ years of service rubric; 54.8 percent of total music faculty fell into this category (12.4% female and 42.4% male). In WCC Table 2, the data is similar in the first category and more evenly spread in the second two: 32.8 percent of respondents had 0-4 years of experience, 32.1 percent had 5-9 years of experience, and 35.0 percent had 10+ years of experience, with percentages dropping sharply as the years of experience increased beyond 14 (18.2 percent had more than 14 years' experience). The WCC survey presents a more equitable picture of longevity than is substantiated either by the HEADS total faculty or its female-only percentages. However, of the HEADS total figure of 7893, 24.9 percent were female and 74.9 percent were male, corresponding closely to the percentages acquired from CMS Publications at the outset of this study (24.6% female, 75.4% male). The WCC survey suggests that the choral field matches NASM total faculty in sex ratios, but its female faculty are less concentrated in categories with shorter longevity.

Outside the musical academe, female concentration in entry-level ranks is closer to the HEADS data. In their article "Two Decades of Gains for Female Faculty?" Richard J. Bentley and Robert T. Blackburn present data drawn from a 1988 survey of U.S. faculty carried out by the University of Michigan.18 In that year, "women constituted 35.2% of all assistant professor positions . . . at the same time that they were 19.5% of all faculty." After comparing data from a similar survey of 1969 carried out by the Carnegie Foundation and the American Council on Education, Bentley and Blackburn conclude that "There has been a loss at the introductory rank and no move toward equity at the top." They also found that "women are concentrated in certain disciplines, representing . . . 11% of the political scientists . . . 33.5% of all English faculty . . . 22.9% of the sociologists . . . 9.9% of chemists . . . [and] 14.1% of the mathematicians."19 Data from HEADS and CMS Publications presents a musical world in which the proportion of females in musical academe, roughly 25%, compares favorably to all disciplines mentioned by Bentley and Blackburn, except English.

4. Size/Type of Employing Institution and Sex Ratio of Choral Faculty. Data from the 1991-2 HEADS Report may, in part, explain the concentration of females returning surveys who worked in junior colleges and private institutions. Of the 542 institutions included, 253 or 46.6 percent are private institutions.20 Still, 67.3 percent of females returning the WCC survey were employed at junior colleges and private institutions, and 32.6 percent were employed by public institutions. Based on the WCC survey, those institutions that stand to lose the most in federal funding as a result of hiring inordinately small numbers of females, appear to do so more frequently than their privately-funded counterparts. Indeed, WCC data indicates that the larger the public institution, the less likely it will employ a female choral conductor. Females appear to stand better than twice the chance of acquiring a collegiate choral position at a junior college or private institution, as in a public institution of any size.

The data in Table 4 may be used to extrapolate numbers of male and female faculty represented by the respondents. If the faculty ratios represented in Table 4 are multiplied by the frequency of the response, a grand total of 585 faculty results. However, since multiple responses from the same institution cannot be ruled out, data reporting more than one female faculty member from more than one female must be divided by the number of females in the ratio to arrive at a conservative estimate that avoids possible duplication. Even if every female represented in categories 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 worked at the same institution as another respondent, an unlikely scenario, the total faculty represented by the ratios would be reduced by 55 only. Consequently, Table 4 represents between 530 and 585 choral conductors, or between 277 (52.3%) and 308 (52.6%) females, and between 253 (47.7%) and 277 (47.3%) males.

For 1991-2, HEADS reported 397 faculty (4.8%) of the 8290 total faculty whose institutions did not specify sex. Even if all faculty whose sex was not reported were females, the percentage of total music faculty who are female would be no greater than 29 percent, still less than one-third of the total faculty. Because females only responded to the WCC survey, the sex ratio of conductors represented in Table 4 is far more equitable than the HEADS Report for that year would indicate for total music faculty. Perhaps choral conducting is, indeed, so significantly ahead of the other music disciplines in equity. More likely is the explanation that, since the WCC survey could contain no responses comprising a "0 females" answer, ratios for total U. S. choral conductors are less equitable than Table 4 would indicate.21

5. Employing Institution—Graduate Programs. Only thirty-four (12.3%) of the respondents taught in schools that offer graduate degrees. Even if the six respondents that did not supply sex data are added to either category, these women represented no more than twenty-six of the 104 institutions HEADS reported that offered Master's conducting degrees of all types or fourteen of the thirty institutions that offered Doctoral conducting degrees of all types.22

The HEADS Report of 1992-3 comprises two demographic surveys of doctoral students enrolled in 1991-2.23 For that academic year, twenty-five schools reported having 209 students enrolled in conducting degrees (all areas): 167 (79.9%) males, and forty-two (20.1%) females. That same year, seventeen schools reported forty-one doctoral students who graduated: thirty-one (75.6%) males and ten (24.4%) females.24 The WCC survey provided more equitable data on graduate student sex ratios in programs with females on the faculty (67.2% males, 32.8% females, Table 5) than HEADS substantiated for total conducting doctoral students.



Unfortunately, many areas of musical academia surpass choral conducting in sex inequity, providing cold comfort for the target group of this study. CMS Report Number 5 reveals that, for the academic year 1986-7, ten areas of the musical academe showed a smaller percentage of females in tenure-track positions than choral conducting's 14.0 percent.25 Band conducting showed the smallest percentage of tenure-track females with 4.2 percent, followed by jazz (5.0%), brass (5.2%), percussion (6.5%), orchestration (7.4%), music education-secondary (8.5%), composition (8.6%), conducting (8.8%), orchestra conducting (9.1%), and woodwinds (13.5%). Not surprisingly, the highest percentages of tenure-track female faculty were found in areas of teaching that traditionally have been more accessible to females: music education-early childhood (67.9%), music education-elementary (49.8%), opera (36.1%), voice (35.4%), and keyboard (34.9%).26

Non-tenure-track percentages are similar, with twelve areas surpassing choral conducting's imbalance of 33.4 percent women: band conducting (7.3%), jazz (7.9%), percussion (8.7%), orchestration (10.9%), western hemisphere (11.8%), brass (12.6%), orchestral conducting (15.2%), conducting-general and composition (both 15.8%), secondary music education (19.5%), ethnomusicology (25.1%), and directing chamber groups (33.4%). Highest concentrations of females in non-tenure-track positions appear in music education-early childhood (82%), music education-elementary (77.6%), voice (63.6%), keyboard (60.2%), music education-summary (54.4%), and opera (47.8%).

Although persisting inequity in academe is simple enough to document, its causes and remedies are elusive. As witnessed by the studies cited in this article, increased awareness has not always resulted in significant gains for women. In fact, equity seems to be in a holding pattern, despite academe's documentable efforts toward progress. In October of 1991, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that

Although the number of female professors in the country has increased since the early 1970s, their proportion of the total faculty has remained relatively steady since the total itself has increased. The greatest increases have been at the rank of assistant professor, where the proportion of women increased from 24% in 1972 to just over 38% in 1989. In 1989, only 13.6% of full professors were women.27

The following month, Chronicle author Liz McMillen indirectly offered one explanation for percentages reported in October, stating that "institutions don't place the same value on fields traditionally dominated by women," and naming several institutions that laid off a disproportionate percentage of females when staffing cuts were mandated.28

Clearly, many factors contribute to persisting inequity suggested by this study. Aisenberg and Harrington offer several observations based on interviews of thirty-seven women "off the normal [tenure] career track" and twenty-five tenured women.29 In the chapter entitled "Rules of the Game," the authors make several observations that have application to the present study. First is a possible consequence of the family challenges so often mentioned in the WCC survey. They suggest that the "usual pattern of isolated work on the part of the married women who dart to class and to the library and then home to keep child-care costs down when they are not subsidized . . . [results in the] loss of opportunity to build networks."30 Networking, they believe, is essential to the acquisition, first of the position, and then of tenure. Assuming that assertion is true, choral conductors of both genders should be concerned not only with the rarity of female models, but also with the effect of that scarcity on networking, since networking often is initiated by the mentor, and not the student.

Another fascinating thesis posited by Aisenberg and Harrington is that, even when a tenure-track position is acquired, many women are derailed because they persist in what the authors call the "merit dream"—a sometimes naive adherence to the belief that merit, instead of participation in academic politics, will bring rewards such as tenure.31 They continue by stating that "behind [this] apparently naive behavior is a deep repugnance for academic politics, a repugnance that remains even when the naiveté is gone," and finally, that "It is not the politics of self-promotion as such, but specifically the presence of politics in academe—the ground of life-enhancing transformation—that women find deeply repugnant."32

All of these findings provide insight into the status and perspectives of women already working in academe, and at the same time, define the challenges for all associated with the collegiate environment. For the collegiate conducting world in particular, progress begins with recognition of the existing imbalance by administrators, faculty members, and students of both sexes. Additionally, conductors must be involved actively in mentoring, hiring, promoting, and serving as colleagues with the under-represented group. Women must confront three further challenges: first, to continue to advance in the established academic world, regardless of its inequities. Second, females must be engaged in academia's evolution toward a more hospitable environment for all who are qualified. This process has begun already, as a result of national mandates, Women's Studies curricula nationwide, and the abundance of other factors contributing to an increased social awareness in the past several years. Finally, each woman must refine her own artistry as a conductor so that she can be a strong example and mentor for the next generation of conductors, who wait for the baton to be passed along.

1The original data for this article was included in the M.M. thesis entitled "The Current Status of Women Choral Conductors at the Collegiate Level" by Lori R. Hetzel (Kansas City: Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1992). Kay Norton provided contextual data and authored the final form of this article. The authors wish to thank the following for support and/or editorial help: UMKC's Women's Council and Graduate Faculties and Research; Conservatory faculty members Eph Ehly, Gary W. Hill, Ann Launey, Randall G. Pembrook, and past Dean, David L. Kuehn; Paul A. Ebben of Lansing, Michigan, and Ann Howard Jones of Boston University.

2Adrienne Fried Block, ed., "The Status of Women in College Music, 1986-87: A Statistical Report," in CMS Report Number 5: Women's Studies/Women's Status (Boulder, CO: The College Music Society, 1988), 90-92.

3J. Michelle Edwards and Leslie Lassetter, "North America Since 1920," in Women and Music: A History, ed. Karin Pendle (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 247.

4Directory of Music Faculties in Colleges and Universities, U.S. and Canada, 1990-92 edition (Missoula, MT: CMS Publications, Inc., 1990), vi.

5List 24 originally comprised 2499 names, including fifty-seven individuals who taught at Canadian institutions.

6Approximately three years after the original survey mailing list was generated, the total U. S. choral conducting faculty had grown to 2500, 661 of whom were women (26.4%), and 1839 of whom were men (73.6%). (Provided by Shannon Devlin of CMS Publications on November 9, 1994.) These figures not only illustrate the limitations inherent in the statistical representation of a fluid environment; they also document a welcome movement toward numerical equity in the field. However, no other pertinent data regarding the added positions is available.

7HEADS is the entity responsible for compiling yearly data required of all National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) member schools. NASM is the agency responsible for the accreditation of music curricula in higher education.

8Richard J. Bentley, Robert T. Blackburn, and Jeffery P. Bieber, "RESEARCH NOTE: Some Corrections and Suggestions for Working with the National Faculty Survey Databases," Research in Higher Education 31, no. 6 (1990): 587-94.

9Bentley, Blackburn, and Bieber, 589.

10Consequently, total percentages do not always equal 100.

11Whether any of the respondents worked at the same institution is unknown. Responses comprising "0 females" could not occur.

12Because of the confidential nature of the survey, whether any of these thirty-four respondents taught at the same institution is unknown. The same may be assumed for the 239 respondents, or 87 percent of the total who were employed at institutions with no graduate conducting programs.

13The authors gave the option of skipping the sex ratio of graduate students in question seven of the survey to decrease the chances of a respondent's deciding to discard the survey because the numbers were not known.

14Chart 12-2, HEADS Report, 1991-2. The authors wish to thank Willa Shaffer of HEADS, who offered extensive explanation of the data on March 30, 1994, by phone. Most pertinent to this study is the fact that the HEADS data merges junior colleges throughout the data, often making a precise comparison to WCC results impossible. Fortunately, the number of junior colleges that supplied HEADS data in 1991-2 was estimated at twenty, a number that would not affect percentages significantly.

15Nadya Aisenberg and Mona Harrington, Women of Academe: Outsiders in the Sacred Grove (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 45.


17Charts 5 and 10, HEADS Report, 1991-2. HEADS prints this disclaimer regarding all charts with sex as a factor: "In many of the charts in this section, total rows have more entries than the sum of the men and women in rows because some respondents [schools] were unable to provide faculty data by sex. For the same reason, the 'male' and 'female' charts are not all-inclusive." The discussion in this article takes 7893 as the number of total faculty, excluding the 397 whose sexes were not specified (Chart 5).

18Richard J. Bentley and Robert T. Blackburn, "Two Decades of Gains for Female Faculty?" Teachers College Record 93, no. 4 (Summer 1992): 700-701.

19Bentley and Blackburn, 700.

20Chart 12-2. Approximately twenty of the HEADS total of 542 are junior colleges.

21Further validation for this viewpoint is seen in the fact that no fewer than 1564 U. S. male choral conductors (1841 total less 277 from Table 4) and no more than 279 female conductors (587 total less 308 from Table 4) are un-represented in Table 4.

22Chart 1-3, HEADS Report, 1991-2. The assumption is made that most schools offering Doctoral degrees in conducting also offer Master's degrees in conducting.

23Charts 27 and 28, HEADS Report, 1992-3.

24The figure of forty-two conflicts with data contained elsewhere in the 1992-3 HEADS report, which indicates that fifty-four doctoral degrees were awarded in conducting between July 1, 1991, and June 30, 1992. Conflicting data may be the result of non-reporting of sex data by some schools. Data from the demographic survey was included above because it offered sex ratios.

25CMS Report Number 5, 90, 92.

26Data collected nearly ten years ago, particularly that documenting the post-1960s story of women in academe, cannot be alleged to represent current proportions. The authors have assumed that changes similar to those outlined in Note 6 above have occurred, and eagerly anticipate studies that document them.

27Debra E. Blum, "Environment Still Hostile to Women in Academe, New Evidence Indicates," The Chronicle of Higher Education 38, no. 7 (9 October 1991): A1, A20.

28Liz McMillen, "Women in Academe Say They Bear Brunt of Staffing Cutbacks," The Chronicle of Higher Education 38, no. 12 (13 November 1991): A1, A37-8.

29Aisenberg and Harrington, x, xi.

30Ibid., 43-4.

31Ibid., 52-3.

32Ibid., 56-7.

3390 Last modified on October 22, 2018