10 March, 2021
Undeniably, gender inequality remains pervasive in the art world. Women still occupy fewer directorships at museums with budgets over $15 million, holding 30% of art museum director positions and earning 75¢ for every dollar earned by male directors (The Ongoing Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships, AAMD). Addtionally, three of the most-visited museums in the world, the British Museum, the Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum of Art have never had female directors (NMWA). London Trade Art is a female-driven team, so International Women’s Day is an important occasion for us to mark. In honour of this important day, we caught up with London Trade Art CEO, Francesca Casiraghi, to see how she views gender disparity in the art world today.
As a female entrepreneur in the art world today, do you still perceive a gender gap in roles available to women in the cultural sector? What is your approach when it comes to disparity?
Unarguably, the path to increase the presence of women in high positions, in particular in the art industry, is still long. Despite recent gains, women make up a majority of professional art museum staff, but they remain underrepresented in leadership positions (Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey 2018). Also in my personal experience, both during my academic career and my previous job experiences, the highest academic positions or the managing authorities were most of the time covered by men.
However, when it comes to disparity, I think that believing in equal rights means to judge people solely on merits or qualities; thus, equality of gender, and not necessarily in the advantage or disadvantage of being women. In my opinion, this way of thinking restricts women to a self-imposed disadvantaged position. I like to think and act as if I had the same possibilities of success as a man, without denying the unarguable differences which characterise each gender.
Have you noticed any improvements since you started?
Yes, I’m very positive about the future of female leadership in the arts and entrepreneurship. Since I founded London trade Art in 2016, I witnessed an increasing sensibility towards women empowerment and the reduction of the gender pay gap. Today, we are witnessing a new era in feminism, which aims to see women finally obtain equal pay and representation in top leadership positions.
According to the Association of Art Museum Directors, the good news is that in 2005, women ran 32% of museums in the US, and they now run 47.6%—albeit mainly the ones with the smallest budgets. Moreover, the ArtReview’s 2018 Power 100 list of the “most influential people in the contemporary art world” included 40% women—a slight improvement from 2017 (38%) and 2016 (32%).
There are also several organisations, charities and member clubs that are doing a great job in supporting female art and leadership. One of them is the Society of Women Artists, a British charity dedicated to promoting art created by women. Since it was founded in 1855 by Harriet Grote, it offered women artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell their works, which at the time, was extremely difficult. A remarkable networking club is Marguerite London, founded in 2015 by Joanna Payne as a network for women and non-binary people who work in the visual arts.
Finally, we are also witnessing increasing attention towards the rediscovery and appreciation of women artists, which is testified by the curatorial selection of some of the most important art galleries. One example is Richard Saltoun Gallery, which dedicated 100% of its exhibition, entitled 100% Women, and art fair programme to women artists from March 2019 to March 2020.
So, I believe that we are definitely moving in the right direction in every respect!
Does this have anything to do with the reason you decided to set up London Trade Art?
Honestly, it didn’t. As I said, I don’t think too much about the fact that I’m a woman when I look at myself as a professional, as I don’t think gender should impose any mental or practical restrictions. When I founded London Trade Art, I was a 25 years old, having just graduated with my Master's, and my decision to create London Trade Art was influenced by the fact that my future was to be written and that I had the capacities and luck to fulfill my dream. Has the road been more challenging because I’m a woman? Sometimes, but it has never prevented, nor will it prevent, me from persevering.
What is London Trade Art doing or aiming to do to fill this gap?
Our main mission is based on filling gaps - an economic gap, a technological gap, an informative gap - and the gender gap is definitely one of them. Our team at London Trade Art is a female-driven team. We haven’t assembled it on purpose, of course, as our attitude is based on an inclusive approach. It just came natural to progressively expand the team with strong and open-minded female professionals. A positive sign of the fact that women are sympathetic, they can count on each other, and despite the old clichés, find strength in one another. As Rakhi Voria, Manager at Microsoft, states, “While we may be individually strong, we are collectively powerful.”
That said, we strongly believe in sharing different perspectives and ways of thinking, thus appreciating the precious involvement of our male partners when it comes to making important decisions. As mentioned, being women, we are inclusive!
Moreover, in order to sustain this forward-thinking approach outside the art world, we proudly partner with the international law firm Withers, which puts gender equality in leadership and female empowerment at the heart of its corporate values, both internally and when undertaking practices.
We have also been selected by the American start-up accelerator programme, Newchip, which is very attentive when it comes to balancing the gender of start-up leaders, sustaining females as much as male entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to a future female entrepreneur who is interested in starting her own business?
I’m not sure I’m already in a position to give advice. I’m taking constant and great inspiration from visionary women entrepreneurs and philanthropists of all times, from Peggy Guggenheim to Miuccia Prada to Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. However, my two cents advice would be to embrace the challenge, forget to be a minority and use it as a fundamental strength. Investors, start-up accelerators and partners all appreciate the courage of being a female entrepreneur, which is most of the time an advantage, despite what is commonly thought. As long as we think of ourselves as disadvantaged, we will always be. Women have persistency, creativity, sensibility, the ability to multitask and concreteness on their side. It’s time to realise that these qualities can make the difference in any field, regardless of gender. Stacey Cunningham, President of NYSE, found the perfect words to express this piece of advice: “Focus on your skills, whether it’s working in a kitchen, working on a trading floor, running a household. You can go do anything."
Interview of Francesca Casiraghi by Aurelia Clavien - March 2021