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Breaking Barriers: How to Create a More Inclusive Art World for Women and Moms

Breaking Barriers: How to Create a More Inclusive Art World for Women and Moms

The Challenges Facing Women and Moms in the Art World

Women and mothers in the arts have long faced systemic barriers that have prevented them from thriving. These barriers include inadequate access to affordable childcare, gender bias, time constraints, and isolation.

Addressing these obstacles with urgency and determination is imperative to achieve significant progress toward a truly inclusive and equitable art community. We must push for change now.

Here are some specific actions we can take:

      • Increase access to affordable childcare. This will allow mothers to have more time to create art without worrying about their children.
      • Challenge gender stereotypes in the art world. This will help to ensure that women’s work is seen and recognized.
      • Provide flexible work arrangements for mothers. This will allow mothers to balance their artistic careers with their family responsibilities.
      • Create opportunities for mothers to connect with each other. This will help to combat isolation and create a sense of community.

These actions allow us to cultivate an art world that empowers and supports women and mothers. Their voices will be heard, and their work will be showcased, allowing for a more diverse and dynamic art scene that accurately represents our society’s richness.

Increase Representation in Leadership

To achieve greater gender parity in the arts, it is crucial to ensure that women have equal opportunities for leadership positions. This can be accomplished by nominating more women for these roles, providing mentorship and training programs, and offering flexible work arrangements that allow women to balance their careers with family responsibilities. By promoting women into leadership positions, we can bring a wider range of perspectives to the table, leading to a more diverse and inclusive art community.

We were so pleased that for our inaugural opening night gala, we had two mothers in government attend. And the current mayor of Northampton, MA, Gina-Louise Sciarra, is a mother. Heck, 2021 brought us our first woman, and mother, to hold the office of Vice President with Kamala Harris, the highest-ranking mom ever in US history.

This is just the beginning. It is essential to ensure equal access for women and mothers to the arts. They deserve the same opportunities as men and should be included in all discussions. This way, we can create a just and inclusive art world that benefits everyone.

The Future of the Art World

The art world is at a crossroads. We can either continue to discriminate against mothers or create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all artists, regardless of their parental status. The future of the art world depends on the choices we make today.

Establishing a more inclusive and fair art world for women and mothers requires collaboration from everyone. We must increase the representation of women in leadership positions, advocate for policies that support working mothers, challenge gender stereotypes, and support organizations that promote equity. By taking these steps, we can gradually create a level playing field for women in the arts, enabling them to express their artistic abilities without barriers. As we strive for a more inclusive and elevated perspective in society, let’s not forget the immense contribution of mother artists to the creative world. We should celebrate and embrace their talents in all aspects of the art world.

Three women mean business

Advocate for Policies that Support Working Moms

Mothers disproportionately shoulder the unpaid labor of parenting. A 2020 New York Times Opinion piece estimated that women’s unpaid labor is worth $10.9 trillion worldwide.

Balancing motherhood and a career is challenging for many mothers. It can be even more daunting in the arts, where jobs often come with long hours and unpredictable schedules. However, we can make it easier for mothers in the arts to maintain their careers while raising a family by advocating for policies like paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and flexible work arrangements. That’s where women-friendly government officials can help.

Challenge Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes continue to permeate the art world, resulting in a lack of recognition and opportunities for women. It’s crucial to commission more works from female artists, showcase more women artists in exhibitions and performances, and give female artists more chances to discuss their experiences as both artists and mothers. Event organizers, exhibition curators, and award panels must be held accountable for promoting diverse artists. It’s time to take action and put an end to this injustice.

Mom teaching girl to paint on canvas

Support Organizations Promoting Equity

Many organizations are working to create a more equitable art world. Supporting them can help to bridge the gap.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the representation of girls and women in media. Founded by Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis, the organization works to make gender equality in film and television a reality through research, education, and advocacy.

The institute has conducted groundbreaking research that has revealed the extent to which gender stereotypes are perpetuated in media. For example, the institute found that women are underrepresented in leading roles in film and television, and when they are represented, they are often depicted in stereotypical ways.

The institute also provides educational materials and resources for teachers, parents, and media professionals who want to make a difference in this space. These materials can help people to understand the importance of gender equality in media and how they can work to challenge gender stereotypes.

In addition to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, many other organizations are working to promote equality for women in the art world. These organizations include WomenArts, the National Women’s Law Center, MomsRising, Moms F1rst, Parent Artist Advocacy League for Performing Arts + Media, and Mothers Institute for Collaboration and Art.

To truly empower mothers and women in their creative endeavors, it is imperative that we throw our support behind organizations that actively challenge gender inequality within the art world. By doing so, we can help facilitate increased funding and the implementation of policies that directly benefit women and their pursuit of artistic excellence.

The Future of the Art World Depends on It

Acknowledging the numerous obstacles mothers face in the creative arts is imperative. Sadly, these women’s individual experiences often go unnoticed. However, we possess the ability to rectify this. By investing in the futures of women and mothers, we can establish a supportive and uplifting art world that facilitates everyone in realizing their complete potential. This is a critical step towards securing the future of the art world.

The art world reflects the larger society, and we must continue to strive for equity and inclusion. Women and mothers are essential to any creative field and should be respected, valued, and celebrated.

By recognizing our shared responsibility to create a more equitable future for all artists, regardless of gender or parental status, we can create the conditions for a more diverse and vibrant art world. It is imperative that we prioritize inclusivity and equity in the art world to create equal opportunities for all to pursue their dreams and create meaningful work.  The necessary support and empowerment to mothers in the art world should not be ignored. The future of the art world depends on it.

The Importance of Supporting Mother Artists

It is widely recognized that women have made significant contributions to the arts despite their obstacles. It is also acknowledged that balancing a family and career can be difficult today. Our society has evolved, with many families having two working parents or being headed by a single parent. That said, it is clear that we are not providing enough support for families as a whole.

It is time that we recognize the incredible contribution of mother artists worldwide. From painters to musicians, writers to filmmakers, moms are making their mark in the creative world, and it is time for us to celebrate their achievements.

Many women artists have also acknowledged that they had to choose between a career or a family. And we know not everyone wants to be a mother, but those who are both mothers and artists, need unique support.

By supporting organizations that aim to support women and mothers as artists, we can help ensure that mother artists get access to the resources they need to continue creating and pushing boundaries in the arts. Recognizing and respecting the unique perspectives of mothers is absolutely essential. It is imperative to create an environment that is inclusive and values the opinions of all.

Only then can we truly create an equitable future for everyone in the creative world. Here are some specific things that we can do to support mother artists:

      • Advocate for more representation of women in leadership positions in the creative industries.
      • Support organizations that provide support and resources for women in art.
      • Buy art by mother artists.
      • Speak out against gender discrimination in the art world.

The creative world has long been male-dominated, but mother artists are breaking down these barriers and making their mark. Their work is often underrepresented in the art world, but it is essential that we recognize and celebrate their contributions.

By supporting mother artists, we can help to create a more inclusive and equitable art world for all. We can also help to ensure that mothers’ voices are heard, and their perspectives are valued.

Challenges Faced by Women and Moms in the Art World

Many women and mothers continue to encounter various obstacles in the art world that hinder their potential for success. One of these challenges is the need for adequate representation of women in leadership roles in the creative industries. Even though women constitute a substantial portion of individuals involved in art and its production, they occupy less than a quarter of top creative positions. Several factors, such as gender discrimination and unconscious bias, cause this inequality.

Balancing childcare and household responsibilities with an art career can be challenging for freelance and contractor mothers. It’s important to advocate for more opportunities in the art world for women and mothers, as this can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the field.


The Financial Challenges of Being a Female Creative

Economic Barriers

Economic barriers can be a major roadblock for many female creatives. Due to institutional bias and discrimination, many female and mom-owned creative businesses that seek investment capital or funding from traditional sources need help. We must continue to strive towards creating an equitable economic environment where all artists are supported financially so that they can thrive.

Creating an Equitable Future

To create an equitable future for all women and mothers in the creative world, we must continue to support access to resources and funding for female creatives, recognize the unique perspectives and issues that mothers encounter, and create an environment where their voices are heard and valued.

With more awareness and action on these issues, we can continue celebrating the powerful work of female creatives throughout history and create a more inclusive and equitable future for all women in the creative industries.

The Art World's Mother Problem

The art world has a long history of discriminating against mothers. In the early 20th century, the avant-gardes viewed domesticity as a drag, and women artists who became mothers were often judged harshly. Even today, mothers in the art world face significant challenges, such as a lack of childcare options, a bias toward youth, and the expectation that they will have to choose between motherhood and a successful career.

These challenges have a real impact on women’s careers in the art world. A recent study by the Freelands Foundation found that only 32% of artists represented by London’s leading galleries are female. This suggests that motherhood is a significant barrier to women’s success in the art world.

There are several things that can be done to address this problem. First, we need to challenge the stereotypes that surround motherhood. Mothers are just as creative and committed to their work as non-mothers. Second, we must provide more support for working parents in art. This could include things like on-site childcare, flexible work arrangements, and paid parental leave.

Finally, we must change how we think about motherhood and work. Motherhood should not be seen as a liability but rather as an asset. Mothers bring a unique perspective and skills to the workplace and should be valued for their contributions.

mom with three kids sitting on couch cuddled together

How You Can Help Create a More Equitable Art World for Women and Moms

The art world is at a crossroads. We can either continue to discriminate against mothers or create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all artists, regardless of their parental status. The future of the art world depends on the choices we make today.

Here are some specific things you can do to help:

      • Support organizations that are working to promote equity for women and mothers in the arts. These organizations are on the frontlines of the fight for change, and your support can make a real difference.
      • Advocate for policies that support working moms. This includes paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and flexible work arrangements. When moms have the support they need, they can be more successful in their careers and in their art.
      • Challenge gender stereotypes in the art world. When we see mothers as artists, we challenge the idea that motherhood is a liability. We also open up new possibilities for women and moms to pursue their creative dreams.
      • Commission works by women artists. When you commission a work by a woman artist, you are sending a message that you value their work and their contributions to the art world.
      • Feature more women artists in exhibitions and performances. When you feature women artists in exhibitions and performances, you are helping to increase their visibility and reach.
      • Provide opportunities for female artists to discuss their experiences as artists and moms. When you give female artists a platform to share their stories, you are helping to break down the barriers that prevent them from succeeding.
      • Hold event organizers, exhibition curators, and award panels accountable. Ask them to explain their selection criteria and ensure their lineups are diverse. When you hold these gatekeepers accountable, you are helping to create a more equitable art world for all.

Final Thoughts

Before you go…

      • Your voice matters. When you speak up about the challenges facing women and moms in the art world, you are helping to raise awareness and create change.
      • Don’t be afraid to get involved. There are many ways to get involved in the fight for equity in the art world. Find an organization that aligns with your values, and get started today.
      • Celebrate the work of women and moms in the arts. When you see the work of a woman artist, take a moment to appreciate their talent and contributions to the art world.

Recognizing and honoring the invaluable contributions of mother artists to the creative world is crucial as we aim to cultivate a more inclusive and elevated societal perspective. These exceptional talents deserve to be celebrated and seamlessly integrated into every facet of the creative arts.

The world of art mirrors our society. To build a more just and inclusive society, we need to begin by fostering a more just and inclusive art world. One way we can achieve this is by supporting mothers who are artists and by challenging preconceived notions regarding motherhood. By working together, we can establish a more equitable art world that embraces women and mothers.


Judah, Hettie. How Not to Exclude Artist Mothers (and Other Parents) (Hot Topics in the Art World) (pp. 13-16). Lund Humphries. Kindle Edition. 

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Theatre: A Man’s World, But What About Mothers?

Theatre: A Man’s World, But What About Mothers?

Mothers in Theatre: The Double Bind

Theatre has long been a male-dominated institution. From the actors on stage to the directors and producers behind the scenes, men have traditionally held power in the theatre world. But what about mothers?

Mothers who work in theatre often face a double bind. They are expected to be just as dedicated to their work as their male counterparts, but they are also expected to be the primary caregivers for their children. This can be a difficult balance to strike, leading to significant stress for mothers.

The theatre industry often overlooks the challenges that mothers face. Work schedules are often long and unpredictable, and childcare can be expensive and difficult to find. As a result, many mothers feel like they have to choose between their careers and their families.

Generation X woman (mom) with upscale hair ready for her scene

This is a problem for mothers and the theatre industry as a whole. Mothers bring a wealth of experience and talent to the table, and their absence is a loss to the field.

The theatre industry needs to do more to support mothers. This means providing flexible work arrangements, offering childcare assistance, and creating a more family-friendly culture. It also means changing the way that we think about motherhood. Motherhood is not a liability; it is an asset.

When we value the work of mothers, we make the theatre industry a better place for everyone.

Photographic portrait of actor mom with a spotlight on background

The Work-Life Balance Dilemma for Mothers in Theatre

The theatre industry has long ignored mothers’ challenges balancing work and family responsibilities. This is because motherhood is often seen as a personal rather than a professional issue. As a result, mothers often feel pressure to “appear” childless to be taken seriously in their careers.

This pressure can be incredibly stressful, leading to several negative consequences for mothers in theatre. For example, women who are mothers may be less likely to be hired or promoted, and they may also be more likely to experience burnout.

This is unacceptable.

Mothers are an essential part of the theatre industry, and they deserve to be treated with respect. We must start by recognizing that motherhood is not just a personal issue. It is also a professional issue, significantly impacting women’s ability to succeed in their careers.

Once we acknowledge this, we can make the theatre industry more supportive of mothers. This means providing flexible work arrangements, offering childcare assistance, and creating a more family-friendly culture.

We need to do better for mothers in theatre.

They deserve successful careers without choosing between work and their families. We need to create an industry that welcomes and supports mothers so they can reach their full potential.

Theater as a Tool for Social Change: Marie NDiaye's Theater of the Mothers

French playwright Marie NDiaye uses her work to explore the role of mothers in a patriarchal society. Her plays often feature mothers made to make difficult choices to protect their children. NDiaye’s work is important because it gives voice to the experiences of marginalized women and challenges the traditional view of motherhood as a selfless act.

NDiaye’s plays are metadramas, meaning they reflect on the nature of theater itself. This is evident in how her plays often feature mothers compelled to play roles prescribed by society. For example, in the play Papa Doit Manger, the mother is driven to sacrifice her own needs to care for her husband and children. This role is both physically and emotionally demanding, ultimately leading to her death.

NDiaye’s work is a powerful reminder of how theater can be used to challenge patriarchal oppression. Her plays offer a critical view of how society expects mothers to behave, showing how these expectations can be harmful. By interrogating the role of theater in the oppression of mothers, NDiaye’s work shows how theater can raise awareness of social issues and offer a path toward social change.

Mother working at home with baby reading email from theatre company

Join Us in Supporting Mothers in Theatre

Gender discrimination is prevalent in all professions, and exorbitant childcare costs and lack of availability continue to struggle when caregivers need to work. Our social order still runs on an outmoded conception, assuming that one parent is at home.

However, theatrical motherwork goes beyond working parents’ everyday struggles in fulfilling the theatre’s unique demands, from production schedules to fundraising, promotional, and networking events. These are all predicated on the idea that the theatre professional is available around the clock. There can be an attitude within the theatre, as well, that when one becomes a parent, there are unstated consequences for the decision.

Further, theatre professionals who have children need to create the illusion that they can work any time and any number of hours to stay in the race, yet if they do that, they feel they are sacrificing their children, and guilt ensues. It takes careful planning and negotiations on the parent’s part; balance is difficult. Support is not here yet.

Mothers in Theatre: The Unpaid Work

Mothers in theatre need to make difficult choices and many sacrifices. Being part of a play, which historically does not pay much, means that any money would go toward a babysitter; therefore, it stops becoming a means for income but rather a non-paying hobby. It only furthers the story of the unpaid work of mothers.

Theatre mothers with young children without a support system must choose: to work or be a mom. Like many institutions, theatre must examine how it operates from an outdated patriarchal mode. Access to affordable childcare, government subsidies for self-employed and contracted, flexible schedules, and flexible medical leave are imperative for theater. Further, patrons should seek out art/theatre by and about mothers. Marie NDiaye’s theatre is an important endeavor, bringing attention to the issues of mothers and the theatre on the stage. It is possible to make theatre more inclusive to mothers, although it will take a multi-dimensional approach and a shakeup from the institution to the group to the individual.

Please join us in supporting these efforts to make theatre more inclusive to mothers. Together, we can create a more equitable and supportive environment for all theatre professionals, regardless of parental status.


Make Theatre More Inclusive to Mothers

In conclusion, theatre needs to be more inclusive to mothers. We need to create an industry that is welcoming and supportive of mothers, so that they can reach their full potential.

Here are some specific actions that the theatre industry can take to support mothers:

    • Provide flexible work arrangements: This could include things like telecommuting, flextime, and job sharing.
    • Offer childcare assistance: This could include things like on-site childcare, subsidies for childcare, or help finding childcare providers.
    • Create a more family-friendly culture: This could include things like providing paid parental leave, flexible work hours, and a supportive work environment.
    • Change the way that we think about motherhood: We need to start seeing motherhood as an asset, not a liability. Mothers bring a wealth of experience and talent to the table, and we must value their contributions.

Call to action:

We urge you to join us in supporting these efforts to make theatre more inclusive to mothers. Together, we can create a more equitable and supportive environment for all theatre professionals, regardless of parental status.


Rusch-Drutz, Corinne. 2004. “Stage Mothers: A Qualitative Analysis of Women’s Work Experiences As Mothers in Toronto Theatre”. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement 6 (2).


Ndiaye, Noémie. “CHAPTER XXI. Theater of the Mothers: Three Political Plays by Marie NDiaye” In Women Mobilizing Memory edited by Ayşe Gül Altınay, María José Contreras, Marianne Hirsch, Jean Howard, Banu Karaca and Alisa Solomon, 363-380. New York Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2019.

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Carla E Reyes

Carla E Reyes

Carla E. Reyes

Brooklyn, NY

Carla E. Reyes is an artist based in New York City who uses mixed media to create textured pieces that explore the interaction between the natural and man-made worlds. Her work includes semi-abstract depictions of both urban and natural scenes and themes of motherhood and women’s issues. Reyes has exhibited her art at galleries such as Raandesk Gallery of Art, The Art Snack Registry, Grand Central Art, Beeswax Arts, and Leche Vitrines Art Alliance in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has been featured in various publications and media, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, BBC World News, The Queens Chronicle, and more. She currently works from her studio at Brooklyn Art Studios in Greenpoint.


Featured Work

Artist-Mother Series by Carla E. Reyes

Having experienced another year in a semi-isolated pandemic situation, the need for self-care, alone time, and personal reflection grew deeper for the artist. Being a mother of two young children faced with the challenges and rigor of working, motherhood, domestic responsibilities, an overwhelming “mental load” in an ongoing pandemic with limited support, while also pursuing artistic goals; drove a yearning to insert herself into her own artistic world in subtle ways. Feelings of overwhelm, identity loss, and a need for escape, begin to push into the nature scenes. Her own shadow began to cast itself into the scenes asking to be seen, to gain space in her own world. Her feet step or run into the picture plane, inviting the viewer to see through her eyes; revealing glimpses into the experience of no longer existing as an individual, with the exception of fleeting, stolen moments in time. These works explore rare and fugitive moments of independence, as well as boundary blurring attachments with people, places, and things dependent on the care and attention of the mother. There is a sense of humor, bittersweetness, absurdity, and irony in the chosen scenes, coupled with a hidden longing and loss of self often unexpressed by many mothers due to social pressures and expectations surrounding motherhood. Physically, the work still incorporates relief texture and a strong emphasis on surfaces, as well as a growing interest in pattern and materials often associated with domesticity, craft, the “feminine,” and children; such as textiles/fabrics, brightly colored plastics, bubbly, fuzzy, and plush objects. For this series she consistently works on small wood panels for the intimacy and fine detail that can be appreciated with close contact and attentiveness at this scale, and the rigid surface provides a strong support for the textural treatments and sculptural elements applied.

Esther S White

Esther S White

Esther S. White

Northampton, MA

Esther S White is an artist, mother, curator, educator, self-publishing evangelist, and unschooler. Her passion for creative expression has led her to explore various mediums, including functional pottery, artists’ books, textiles, and prints. Esther’s work is characterized by her experimental approach to materials and deep exploration of personal history. Beyond her artistic endeavors, Esther co-founded the Northampton Print & Book Fair, an event that celebrates self-publishing and encourages community engagement in the arts. Her dedication to promoting independent voices in the creative world is fundamental to her practice. Esther’s work has been exhibited in galleries across the country and internationally, and her pieces are featured in the special collections of numerous prestigious institutions. She received her BA in Studio Art and Art History from Barnard College.


Featured Work

Learning to Walk #3 quilt image.
I left the Dishes in the Sink quilt image

Esther S White, Learning to Walk #3, 2016; quilt: cotton, fiber-reactive dye; monoprinted, hand-dyed, machine-stitched, and quilted. 42”x40”.


Esther S White, I Left the Dishes in the Sink, 2016; cotton, fiber-reactive dye, ink, copy toner; monoprinted, screenprinted, hand dyed, marbled, photocopied, machine stitched and quilted. 51”x41”.