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 classical music festival in the world. This year there are 58 main evening orchestral concerts, as well as chamber music concerts, daytime events and late-night concerts. The audiences in the Royal Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast, many on television.

The figures for women in the 2017 BBC Proms season are:

Composers:9/120 (7.5%)[Last year was 8/116]
Living composers:8/36 (22%)[Last year was 7/40]
BBC Commissions:4/13 (30.8%)[Last year was 6/15]
Conductors:7/57 (11%)[Last year was 5/58]

The women composers are: Cheryl Frances-Hoad; Hannah Kendall; Missy Mazzoli; Rebecca Saunders Judith Weir; Lotta Wennakoski; Kate Whitely; Grace Williams; Julia Wolfe.

The conductors are: Karina Canellakis; Jessica Cottis; Sian Edwards; Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla; Sofi Jeannin; Karen Kamemsek; Xian Zhang.

To analyse the results: The figures are much the same as last year. However, when I looked at the duration of the works by living composers I found that only one woman composer this year had a substantial work (15 mins or over) compared to 4 women composers last year.This was a work by Judith Weir which is scheduled in the afternoon and is not at the Royal Albert Hall, but at a much smaller venue. In other words NO woman composer is having a substantial work performed in the main evening concerts. This compares to 17 substantial works by male composers in the main evening concerts.

It seems that the trend has gone back to all the years before last year, when women composers were consistently represented by shorter works in smaller venues.

The number of women conductors, however, has been expanding since I first started counting. From 1983 to 2012 women conductors were represented by the figures 0, 1 or 2. This year’s 7 is the highest yet.

Jenny Fowler

NOTE: Anyone is welcome to quote these statistics, but please mention the source. The figures for past Proms seasons are also available on the Women in Music (UK) website: