Women Conductors

In recent years, the world has increasingly asked why – in so many walks of life – men often get the majority of opportunities. This is particularly conspicuous in conducting where stark statistics show we’re far from equality.

Only one British orchestra has a female principal conductor. Only six women conductors have titled roles amid the several hundred conductors on the staff of professional British orchestras. At our last count, only 22 of the 371 conductors represented by British agents were female. That’s 5.5%.

People frequently cite this as being a ‘grass roots’ problem and that more needs doing to encourage women at early stages to take up conducting, stick with it, and develop the skills needed for the profession. At the Royal Philharmonic Society, we are proud to present the UK’s foremost initiative to help women do just that. It was the idea of pioneering conductor Alice Farnham in 2014 and, since 2016 we have been working year on year with Alice and a growing network of organisations to create more opportunities giving more women the means and the confidence to conduct.

At the heart of the initiative is a range of courses for aspiring women conductors held at venues nationally. Alongside these, we are ardently involved in advocacy, discourse and planning with colleagues sector-wide to ensure women are better represented on the podium and that the current imbalance is one day consigned forever to the past.

"RPS Women Conductors is doing something fantastic: a programme for women conductors led by the very gifted Alice Farnham. A chance to explore issues, musical and interpersonal, faced by the leader of an orchestra who happens to be a woman!" - Sir Antonio Pappano

We are tremendously grateful to Arts Council England, ABRSM, Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust and a circle of individuals for supporting Women Conductors. On some of our Women Conductors courses, a limited number of busaries are available to participants who require financial support to take part. These are made possible thanks to the Sir John Barbirolli Memorial Foundation.

We dearly need other generous donors to help us give more women the chance to conduct and the support to make a living from it. Please click here for more information on how to get involved in our life-changing programme.

Arts Council England

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