For some years Women in Music (UK) has been doing a survey of the numbers of women represented in the BBC PROMS season. The Proms is the largest music festival in the world. This year there are 61 evening orchestral concerts, as well as 8 chamber music concerts, and other late night events. The audiences which are in the Royal Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast, many on television.

This year there was huge publicity for the fact that for the first time a woman (Marin Alsop) is to conduct the very popular Last Night of the Proms. There was wide-spread coverage of brief interviews with Alsop, in which she said that she was honoured to be chosen, but that it was extraordinary that in 2013 there were still events that were “first times” for women.

Disappointingly, this year the figures are mostly down on last year, which was the best ever. However, the one figure which showed improvement for women’s representation, was that for instrumental soloists, where the improvement was considerable.

The figures for women in the 2013 Proms season are:

Composers:7/130 (5.4%)[Last year was 9.2%]
Living composers:5/31 (16%)[Last year was 25%]
BBC Commissions:4/17 (23%)[Last year was 45%]
Conductors:4/57 (7%)[Last year was 8.6%]
Instrumental soloists:15/50 (30%)[Last year was 17.7%]

The women composers are: Diana Burrell (BBC Commission); Anna Clyne (BBC Commission); Tansy Davies (BBC Commission); Sofia Gubaidulina; Elizabeth Maconochy; Priaulx Rainier; Charlotte Seither (BBC Commission); The conductors are: Marin Alsop (twice); Sian Edwards; Rebecca Thomas (Gospel late night Prom); Ruth Waldron (Gospel late night Prom).

To analyse the figures – This year there are to be 3 works by women in the main orchestral concerts (one of them only 5 mins long) and 4 in the chamber concerts (which are in a much smaller venue). For comparison, last year this was 8/6. So this is a considerable reduction from 2012.
For conductors, only Marin Alsop’s two concerts are main evening orchestral concerts. The other 3 women are in chamber or late night concerts.

As last year, in order to put the figures in context, I have surveyed the 2013 – 2014 season of orchestral concerts at the Southbank Centre in London. There are 137 orchestral concerts listed. The figures for women in those are:

Composers:6/125 (4.8%)Clare Connors; Sally Beamish; Gubaidulina; Karin Rehnqvist; Saariaho; Ustvolskaya
Living composers:5/27 (18.6%) 
Conductors:2/78 (2.5%)Marin Alsop; Rebecca Miller

So, as always, the Proms season is no worse, and perhaps rather better than other orchestral seasons.

Jennifer Fowler