Spotlight on Women in Lighting: 2015 USITT Session Raises Critical Issues for Women in a Male-Dominated Profession

By Adams, Betsy; Fisher, Victoria et al. | TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology), Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Spotlight on Women in Lighting: 2015 USITT Session Raises Critical Issues for Women in a Male-Dominated Profession


Adams, Betsy, Fisher, Victoria, Norman, Monique, Scott, Vickie, TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology)


According to the U.S. Department of Labor: "Nontraditional occupations are those in which women comprise 25 percent or less of total employed."

That means every single woman working in the field of entertainment lighting is working in a nontraditional occupation.

The 2015 USITT National Conference and Stage Expo, held in March, addressed the issue in a session titled "Women in the Profession of Lighting," yet it quickly became clear to the panelists and participants that an hour and fifteen minutes was simply not enough time to tackle the issues raised. The session was co-chaired by Autum Casey, assistant professor at George Mason University, and Victoria Fisher, sales representative for Barbizon Lighting, and featured panelists Betsy Adams, a New York-based lighting designer for theater and corporate events; Amy Edge, lighting director and assistant stage manager for Spirit Productions; Monique Norman, dimming and controls specialist at Ardd + Winter; and Vickie Scott, lighting designer for theater, dance, and themed entertainment and director of design in the Department of Theater and Dance at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Discussion topics ranged from why women have such low representation professionally to whether a female designer should change her name or dress in a particular way. Stories were shared by both panelists and participants that ran the gamut from cases of obvious discrimination to uplifting moments of support. What was most clear to all involved was that this was a multi-layered discussion and that the session had only scratched the surface.

ENTERTAINMENT LIGHTING CAREERS

How many lighting careers can you name? Beginning with careers that include "designer" in the title, some of the possible domains are TV, film, concerts, corporate and special events, museums, themed entertainment, architecture, landscape architecture, and CGI. Next, the technical side of the industry includes careers such as production electrician, programmer, or systems designer. Finally, consider the corporate world of dealers, manufacturers, and consultants; both panelists Fisher and Norman, for example, use their training in lighting design every day. Other prominent women with lighting design backgrounds who work in the corporate world are Ellen White, ETC outreach and training specialist; Wendy Luedtke, Rosco's color and lighting product manager; and Jane Rein, regional sales manager at ARRI.

Opportunities in the corporate world of lighting may be the least known to early career lighting designers. The breadth of career options can be surprising. The following list provides an overview and introduction to fields within the industry well suited to the lighting designer's skill set:

* Manufacturers offer many avenues for employment, including research and development, product area specialists, training, and service. All of these areas may involve local, national, or international travel. Manufacturers typically have a lot of interaction with all of the other fields in this list.

* Dealers sell products that are not sold directly to the public by the manufacturer. They may have multiple departments including product and expendables, service, and systems integration, and they often employ project managers to oversee ongoing installations or renovations. Dealers offer a place where people in the industry can come locally for demos and product information.

* Reps (short for representatives) are individuals or firms who are usually contracted by one or more manufacturers to sell their product line. The reps may offer design and application assistance to a variety of people whose job it is to specify lighting equipment including theatrical, architectural, and landscape lighting designers; contractors; engineers; and others. They work closely with both manufacturers and dealers and can provide an interface between manufacturers and end-users. …

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