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Tracker n°18 | Cutting Edge | Re-balancing the scales: gender equality in cultural life

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Re-balancing the scales: gender equality in cultural life

No society in the world enjoys full gender equality. Unfortunately, gender disparities in the field of culture frequently reflect inequalities in society at large. Through heritage and the cultural and creative sectors, it is clear that women’s status in society – politically, legally, socially, economically – is still curtailed in much of the world. Despite notable progress, women continue to be underrepresented in almost all cultural fields, including film, music, museums, art, heritage and digital media, particularly in leadership positions. Gender stereotypes continue to be perpetuated in and through diverse cultural expressions. Gender equality in cultural life implies that no members of society should be privileged or disadvantaged in rights, choices, opportunities, benefits and freedoms because they are born, or identify as female.

Yet, culture has the unique power to tell untold stories, subvert stereotypes, shed light on our collective values and explore different facets of our complex identities as human beings. Neither culture nor gender are static concepts; they are constantly evolving. As cultures morph, so too can gender norms, in order to guarantee fundamental freedoms for all. Therefore, strengthening women’s participation in cultural life and access to culture is vital for promoting gender equality. Intangible cultural heritage – the traditions, knowledge, skills and living practices that give meaning to our daily existence – is an important tool in forging values and shaping our behaviours, including gender norms, and nurturing social cohesion. Creative expressions – such as theatre, music, books, film – provide insights into the human experience from the perspectives of all people, in all of their diversity. World Heritage sites and museums are spaces of dialogue about contemporary societal issues, reinterpreting our past with a view to shaping the future.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, as reflected in the 2022 theme of International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. As such, the promotion of gender equality ought not to be confined as a ‘women’s issue’ but as an issue for all people. Gender equality and the empowerment of women features prominently within the 2030 Agenda, both as a standalone goal – Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 – and mainstreamed across the other SDGs. However, progress is fragile. UN Women sounded the alarm in its 2018 report that “many hard-won gender equality achievements are under threat”, particularly due to climate change and environmental degradation, economic slowdown, and a renewed resistance to women’s rights in some corners. More recently, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic put in peril decades of “limited gains in gender equality and women’s rights, notably due to the rise in gender violence resulting from restrictions in movement and confinement.

That is why UNESCO is working to mainstream gender into all its programmes and activities - including in the field of culture - in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Gender Equality has been one of UNESCO’s two Global Priorities since 2007, underpinning all of the Organization’s actions as guided by the UNESCO Gender Equality Action Plan that promotes gender equality through a two-pronged approach: gender-specific programmes and gender mainstreaming, which is the process of integrating a gender perspective in policy planning, programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation activities in all areas of UNESCO’s competence.

Culture, rights and gender equality

UNESCO’s approach to gender equality in the field of culture is based on an upfront commitment to human rights and cultural diversity. The Organization’s work on culture focuses on ensuring that women and men equally enjoy the right to access, participate in and contribute to cultural life and thereby to encourage women and men to equally benefit from heritage and creativity. This aim falls within the broad framework of the implementation of the Culture Conventions and their related programmes, which cover the various dimensions of culture, from cultural heritage to living expressions and the cultural industries. To this end, emphasis is placed on: expanding economic and social opportunities, the creative horizons of women and girls; ensuring their access to cultural entrepreneurship and cultural content generation, as well as to decision-making positions; ensuring freedom of expression for all, including with regard to artistic freedom -notably for female artists - irrespective of gender or other social identity; and supporting gender-transformative media development.

Gender, culture and human rights intersect in intricate and complex ways. On the one hand, the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, enjoy the arts and culture and share in scientific advancement irrespective of gender is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Over the past 70 years, this right has been further embedded - implicitly or explicitly - in international agreements. On the other hand, there has also been a tendency to view culture as an impediment to women’s human rights. For example, the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) - a milestone for women’s rights, which has been ratified by 189 countries - explicitly refers to “traditional cultural patterns” as a major factor exacerbating unequal social practices promoting gender inequalities or even violence against women. In the foreword to UNESCO’s 2014 publication Gender Equality, Heritage and Creativity, the then-Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, decried this vision as “over-simplistic”, and has called for a shift in paradigm in UN other reports. Among other international normative instruments, the UNESCO 2001 Declaration on Cultural Diversity is unequivocal in the universality of human rights: “No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.”

No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope... Cultural rights are an integral part of human rights, which are universal, indivisible and interdependent.
The UNESCO 2001 Declaration on Cultural Diversity

 

One key challenge to achieving the goal of gender equality is that the concept of gender is not understood in the same way across cultures. Gender norms and definitions vary across countries and communities. For example, while some North American indigenous peoples recognise up to seven different genders, most societies understand gender as binary. Gender inequalities remain embedded in many societies’ institutions, from the family through to the state, which forces us to critically examine how achieving gender equality is affected by different power structures. Whilst women and girls in particular suffer from inequalities, boys and men can also suffer from restrictive social norms that hinder fulfilment of the promise of gender equality, as outlined in the 2021 OECD publication Man Enough? Measuring Masculine Norms to Promote Women’s Empowerment, for example. Whilst the principle of non-discrimination is enshrined in a large number of legal instruments - everyone must enjoy the same rights, regardless of their distinctive features -, the Human Rights Committee has argued that the enjoyment of these rights on an equal footing “does not mean identical treatment in every instance”.

The economic, social and human rights-based value of gender equality in the cultural and creative sectors is increasingly recognised at the highest levels as a central element towards attaining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which should not be treated as an afterthought on public and political agendas. The historic adoption of the Rome Declaration of the G20 Culture Ministers in June 2021 recognised: ‘the social impact of cultural and creative sectors, supporting health and well-being, promoting social inclusion, gender equality and woman’s empowerment, local social capital, amplifying behavioural change and transformation towards more sustainable production and consumption practices and contributing to the quality of the living environment, for the benefit of everyone’s quality of life’.

There are some positive indications that gender equality is becoming part of cultural policy strategies. For example, three out of four Parties to the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are reporting on policies or measures they have introduced to address the challenges faced by women working in the cultural sector. Some of these measures integrate culture in gender equality frameworks. For example, Comoros updated its National Policy for Gender Equality in 2018 to include culture in the government’s approach to sustainable development, whilst the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture prioritizes the equitable participation of men and women in cultural activities, in line with its National Human Development Programme. Others have integrated a gender dimension into cultural policies. For example, Jamaica mainstreams gender through its Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, whilst Mexico has a Gender Unit within the Culture Secretariat. In Burkina Faso, gender equality is mainstreamed in cultural policies, with a Gender Unit being created in all ministries, including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic provides training to employees on gender issues. UNESCO’s Policy Monitoring Platform features some 180 policies and measures implemented by Member States to promote gender equality in the culture sector over the last four years.

Only one in four World Heritage site managers are women 42% of leadership positions in arts and cultural councils are held by women.
UNESCO

Glass ceilings… and glass walls

 

The culture sector is not immune to the gender inequalities and discriminations that permeate other areas of society. An intersectional perspective shows that gender inequality is influenced by a broader context that includes other forms of social categorisation, such as class, race, poverty level, ethnicity, religion, age, disability and marital status, which can compound disadvantages. Whilst 48.1% of work in the culture and entertainment sector is done by women, the recently published UNESCO Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity report, as well as the 2021 Gender & Creativity: progress of the precipice, provide evidence indicating that women remain under-represented in positions of leadership, have less access to public funding and that women creators’ work is far less visible and acknowledged than their male counterparts. For example, only 1 in 3 of the awards for main film categories of 60 major film festivals worldwide were given to female artists and producers in 2019, whilst just 8% of orchestra conductor performances in 2019 were by women. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on female artists and cultural professionals.

Women continue to hit a ‘glass ceiling’ in their career progression, meaning that they remain under-represented in decision-making positions. Only one in four World Heritage site managers are women, out of a total of 1,154 sites. Worldwide, men hold 58% of leadership positions in arts and cultural councils. This proportion is much higher in Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Arab States, where women’s representation can be as low as 27%. Progress in this area is hampered by difficulties in work-life balance, organizational cultures and the fact that women continue to shoulder the greater burden of domestic and care responsibilities. Furthermore, only a quarter of cultural policies and measures reported by countries for the Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity report aimed to promote women artists, cultural professionals and/or creative entrepreneurs in decision-making positions. There are also so-called “glass walls” whereby certain sectors are gendered: for example, the female workforce of the gaming industry stands at just 30%, while women are over-represented in educative or administrative tasks.

 

Despite legal protections, women and gender diverse artists and creative professional enter the cultural industries on an uneven footing as they are not afforded the same creative freedom as their male counterparts. According to UNESCO’s 2020 publication Freedom & Creativity: Defending art, defending diversity, “those who identify as women or gender diverse are much more likely to suffer from harassment, abuse, bullying and a general lack of safety in all workplaces including in cultural and media workplaces.” Civil society organizations, such as Freemuse, have also documented artistic freedom violations against women artists. Furthermore, working conditions and the organization of work can exacerbate sexual harassment, according to a policy brief carried out by the International Labour Organization in 2020 on the basis of a survey among over 90 trade unions in the live entertainment, film and television, and broadcasting industries. Meanwhile, in severe cases, extremists often harass and target female members of minority groups and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as they seek to enjoy their equal cultural rights, as highlighted by a 2017 report by the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Deeyah Khan herself was targeted during her early career as a musician.

Finally, the commercial motives of some cultural productions are often not conducive to challenging biased forms of representation and expression. For example, a recent study of the film industry in Sweden reported difficulties faced by women directors when they attempt to portray gender differently and challenge current gender norms.

 

I realise the importance of women telling their own stories, whoever they are. Exposing oppression is only half the story.
Deeyah Khan Documentary film-maker , UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador

 

A key challenge for policy-makers is the lack of sex-disaggregated data to give a clear, overall picture of the state of gender equality within the cultural sector, which often conceals gender gaps and challenges. At a global level, only around half of countries regularly collect and disseminate data to monitor gender equality in the culture and media sectors, as well as on the participation of women in cultural life. Some countries have developed more advanced monitoring systems, such as the Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women, which since 2011 has been implementing a framework to assess women’s participation in public, political and cultural life, whilst France’s Ministry of Culture regularly publishes an ‘Observatory on Gender Equality in Culture and Communication’. Since 2016, the Ministry of Cultures, Arts and Heritage of Chile has also developed a series of studies on the participation of women in the artistic field, leading to concrete projects to strengthen the position of women artists, cultural professionals and entrepreneurs.

One major effort to address the data gap and better guide Member States is the UNESCO Culture|2030 Indicators Framework, which gender addresses transversally. This approach is deemed more relevant as most statistical and administrative information distinguishes between men and women to reveal information about equality of access to opportunities and participation in social, economic, political and cultural life. The framework also invites respondents to consider disaggregation according to self-reported gender identity, which is being increasingly used by statistics offices around the world. Currently being piloted in 14 countries - the latest being Costa Rica, Serbia and Morocco - initial results from some countries are due in July.

Empowerment through culture

 

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and therefore half of its potential, with the cultural sector being ripe terrain for harnessing their creativity and innovation. The UNESCO 1980 Recommendation on the Status of the Artist particularly calls on governments to “give particular attention to the development of women’s creativity and the encouragement of groups and organizations which seek to promote the role of women in the various branches of artistic activity”. To address existing disparities, several countries such as Ireland, Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica and Norway are investing in women’s creativity, providing financial incentives for artistic works produced by women. Others, such as the United Arab Emirates, provide entrepreneurial training for women creative professionals. Others focus on promoting women’s achievements and making their work more visible, such as the Urusaro International Women’s Film Festival in Rwanda, Panama’s multidisciplinary Fémina Festival or the Naziq Al-Malaika Award for Women’s Literary Creativity, organized by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq. In Argentina, a 2019 law aiming to eliminate discrimination at musical events on the basis of sex, gender or gender identity requires at least 30% of performers identifying as women. Other countries, such as Bangladesh and Finland, have taken steps to root out harassment in the cultural sector, through an anti-harassment committee and an anti-harassment support fund, respectively.

The cultural and creative industries themselves, as well as civil society, play a key role in advocating for gender equality mechanisms. Currently, the film industry plays a leading role, with 65% of measures reported by 2005 Convention States Parties incorporating gender equality measures, compared to music and publishing (each at 13%) and the performing arts (9%). Civil society organizations are proving to be key in advancing innovative measures for gender equality, building the capacities of female artists and creative professionals. For example, in Mali, the civil-society led ‘Arts Femmes’ (Art Women) project trains women in theatre production, and Music Crossroads Zimbabwe enhances skills of female artists. UNESCO has also teamed up with Sabrina Ho through the initiative ‘You Are Next: Empowering Creative Women’, launched in 2018, that has trained women under 40 in Mexico, Palestine, Senegal and Tajikistan, providing access to digital tools and entrepreneurial skills. Civil society also provides opportunities for networking, such as the Network of Gender Journalists for Women and Cultural Advancement in Gambia.

The heritage sector also provides opportunities for women’s empowerment and participation in cultural life and economic opportunities as, according to the 2019 Global Report on Women in Tourism, the majority of the tourism workforce worldwide is female, 54%, compared to 39% in the broader economy. Furthermore, the wage-gap is smaller in the tourism industry. For example, at the Virunga National Park World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there has been a great effort since 2014 to include women as rangers, as well as electricians, masons, painters, warehouse operators and engineers at the hydroelectric plants. This initiative provides not only income, but also a different image of women, addressing gender stereotypes, bias, and vulnerability to gender-based violence. Since 2007, the UNESCO Beijing Office has been working on the “Conservation and Management of World Heritage sites in China” Project, involving 50 World Heritage sites at which 55% of the 2,655 direct beneficiaries are women. In addition to work directly related to the World Heritage sites, activities also include, for example, promoting the Sani embroidery industry at the Shilin natural World Heritage site, the vast majority of the beneficiaries being women.

In Madagascar, the Tsingy Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also provides economic and educational opportunities for women. Six hundred of them have had technical and vocational training to grow vegetables to sell in local hotels or to produce marketable handicrafts, supported by a designer while preserving local traditions.

UNESCO has also increased the visibility of the benefits of women’s participation in heritage protection. A recent publication on the Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System trans-boundary World Heritage site (Argentina, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) showcases women’s empowerment through activities related to the management, conservation and use of this transnational Word Heritage property. In 2019, UNESCO trained some 40 female members of the armed forces of Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, as well as female peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, which is a critical component for the overall success of several military and peacekeeping missions.

Women's participation in the cultural life of the community through intangible cultural heritage practices can also be empowering, leading to social cohesion. For example, women lead the traditional Imzad music in the Tuareg communities of Algeria, Mali and Niger, with men and women singing. Other examples are the Lithuanian Sutartinès multipart songs and the worship of the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms in Viet Nam. Some living heritage practices contribute to the appreciation of women and their roles in society, such as the Salak Yom Festival in Lamphun, Thailand, where young women play a central role in the rites, or during the rice sowing and harvest seasons. Women also lead the UNESCO-listed living heritage practice Hudhud chants of the matrilineal Ifugao people in the Philippines. These examples show how Living Heritage has served as a catalyser to address social changes that lead to changes of gender dynamics.

 

Women represent 48.1%of the work force in the culture and entertainment sector
UNESCO

Culture for breaking down barriers

 

Addressing gender inequalities in the cultural and creative sector, as well as fully valuing women’s role in the cultural life of the community, has ripple effects across other parts of society. As gender is a social construct - defined by the power relations between different genders and the norms and values regarding ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ roles and behaviour - it evolves, according to socio-economic, and geographical contexts. The cultural interpretation and negotiation of gender is crucial to the identity (including gender identity) of individuals and their communities. Therefore, culture – in all its facets – has a gender-transformative potential for challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers.

Living heritage practices, including several UNESCO-listed Intangible Cultural Heritage elements can challenge stereotypes or open spaces for dialogue. For example, in the Republic of Korea, the Jeju Haenyeo divers are not only vital within their communities for their role in gathering shellfish but have also contributed to the advancement of women’s status in the community, including through the Haenyeo School and Haenyeo Museum. The Koogere oral tradition of the Basongora, Banyabindi and Batooro peoples of Uganda , which recounts the tales of the exceptional wisdom of the Koogere female chief of Busongora about 1,500 years ago, is an integral part of the community’s social philosophy, evoking female magic, heroism and wisdom. In the Republic of Korea, the traditional Namsadang Norin (literally the ‘all-male vagabond clown theatre’) performances have raised issues on behalf of those with no political voice and manifested ideals of equality and freedom. The mask dance and puppet plays, in particular, enact the oppression of women in a male-dominated society. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Hikaye is a narrative expression practised by women that has evolved over the centuries, offering a critique of current social concerns and family issues from a women’s perspective.

Over time, certain intangible cultural heritage practices have evolved to break down separate roles for men and women. For example, Kabuki theatre of Japan, Kallawaya traditional healing of the Plurinational State of Bolivia or the gondolier tradition of Italy are now open to women. Conversely, the Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, traditional interior wall decoration previously practiced by women in Asir, Saudi Arabia, is nowadays practiced by male and female artists and interior designers. Similarly, there are an increasing number of men among the ‘Ie Samoa fine mat weavers. Cambodian Living Arts actively encourages women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated arts, such as music and puppetry, with 30% of students being women and girls, in order to protect Cambodian arts from disappearing. One of UNESCO’s contributions under the Global Partnership: Girl’s Right to Education initiatives was harnessing the unique Pakistani truck art to raise awareness on girls’ education in the Kohistan district. Intangible cultural heritage is a flexible platform for gender inclusion as living heritage expressions evolve over time.

Time and again, cultural expressions have challenged gender norms and relations by offering visions of a world free of bias, where differences are embraced and celebrated, including for LGBTQI communities. For example, the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro has introduced several concrete cultural-artistic programmes and projects from the LGBTQI population, including exhibitions and debates. Civil society is vital for pushing back boundaries: for example, in Ecuador, the ‘Crisalys’ association of families with transgender minors and transgender women have addressed the lack of spaces for expressing non-binary gender identities and participation in cultural life, as well as participating in various government forums for the formulation of public policies. Similarly, in Iceland, the volunteer organization ‘Stelpur rokka!’ (Girls Rock!) works to empower girls, trans, queer and intersex youth through music.

Furthermore, a pluralistic media can also play a fundamental role in advancing gender equality through promoting artistic freedom for women and gender diverse groups. UNESCO advocates for a diversity of broadcasters, print and online platforms to reflect a range of opinions and perspectives. UNESCO’s Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (GSIM) provide a comprehensive framework for media to analyse their content to avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes. In the Republic of Korea, for example, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, in collaboration with several ministries, including the one responsible for culture, have launched an initiative to establish a media monitoring and feedback system of gender perspectives with civic participation.

Museums are important spaces for dialogue and questioning societal norms, through their research programming and outreach, as outlined in the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections. Whilst the issues are complex and data is scarce, there is some evidence that they do not always live up to their duty to tackle gender stereotypes, represent works reflecting society and ensure equal access. A study published by The Smithsonian Museum in 2019 revealed that 87% of artists featured in museums’ permanent collections in the United States of America are men. The Guerilla Girls anonymous artist activists have been raising this issue since 1985 with their iconic artwork How Many Women Had One-Person Exhibitions In NYC Art Museums Last Year - (Answer: 1) – and continue to raise awareness about the barriers faced by women artists. Some studies also point to the gender stereotypes in representations within exhibitions. A 2011 study of six museums in Viet Nam carried out by the UNESCO Office in Hanoi, for example, demonstrated that women were commonly depicted as war victims, involved in agricultural, domestic and/or rural work, whilst men were predominantly featured in urban spaces, and as heroic soldiers.

 

Around the world, there are now museums dedicated to women’s culture, history and art, presenting a different narrative. The Washington, D.C.-based National Museum for Women in the Arts established in 1981 is a major museum solely dedicated. to celebrating women's achievements in the visual, performing, and literary arts. The International Association of Women’s Museums now counts some 60 members. Museums around the world include the Voices of Women Museum in South Africa, Ukraine’s Gender Museum, Azerbaijan’s Gender Information Centre, Jordan’s International Centre for Women Artists and New Zealand’s Charlotte Museum Trust dedicated to the collection of lesbian history. National museums are also innovating to make their spaces more inclusive. To celebrate 50 years of decriminalisation of homosexuality in United Kingdom law, the British Museum curated the trail named ‘Desire, Love, Identity: exploring LGBTQ histories’ which leads visitors through the LGBTQ history related to its permanent collection, spanning ancient civilisations to the modern-day.

 

Most heritage sites do not address gender inequalities and, as such, there is great potential for change. As the 2014 UNESCO publication Gender Equality, Heritage and Creativity highlights, heritage is commonly understood as a legacy from past generations, cherished in the present for its recognised aesthetic, spiritual and social values within society. It is constantly evolving in response to shifting circumstances, needs, knowledge and values. As a clear-cut example, many cultures have segregated entrances to buildings and assign men and women different places in certain religious monuments and spaces. This can be seen, for example, in World Heritage sites Mount Athos (Greece) and parts of the Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Japan), which restrict access to women for religious reasons. Similarly, in some sacred natural spaces for Indigenous communities, women and men use different areas, such as in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (Australia). Currently, very few sites on the World Heritage List are related directly to the lives of women; the Flemish Béguinages (Belgium) architectural ensemble commemorating the closed communities of women who dedicated themselves to God from the 13th century, is a notable example. Other sites, such as the New Lanark village in the United Kingdom, attest to chapters in women’s emancipation. The industrial and housing complex tells the story of the mill owner’s ideals in providing education for the communities of women beginning in the 19th century.

At the time of the drafting of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, no explicit consideration was given to the role of women and men in heritage preservation. Over time, however, this has evolved. Particularly the 2015 Sustainability Policy adopted by the World Heritage Committee - and then reflected in specific provisions within the Operational Guidelines of the Convention. These Guidelines call on States Parties to ensure respect for gender equality throughout the full cycle of World Heritage processes, notably in the preparation and content of nomination dossiers and further calls for the effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership and representation of both women and men within activities for the conservation and management of World Heritage properties. Similarly, the Operational Directives of the 2003 Convention encourage States Parties, among others, to “ensure gender equality in the planning, management and implementation of safeguarding measures.” Countries such as Peru, through its Directorate of Intangible Cultural Heritage, have taken steps to implement another recommendation to foster studies to understand the diversity of gender roles by appointing women anthropologists to register information about women’s cultural practices.

Gender inequalities still permeate all areas of cultural life, even if the situation is nuanced across the different cultural domains and across the world. Whilst the cultural and creative sector employs relatively more women than other economic subsectors, closer examination of the gender approach to heritage and creativity reveals the same challenges found in other areas of socioeconomic life: the limited participation of women in decision-making positions; segregation into certain activities; restricted opportunities for training, capacity-building and networking; women’s unequal share of unpaid care work; as well as gender stereotypes about culturally appropriate roles for women and men. In some cases, gender inequalities also hamper women’s equal access to culture, curtailing the full exercise of their cultural rights.