The Pageantry Arts and Our Diversity Problem by the Numbers


Last Sunday night I sat like many of us did, with popcorn and wine by my side, and watched the Academy Awards. I listened while Chris Rock brilliantly took jab after jab at the Academy for its lack of diversity in nominating black actors, actresses, directors, and writers. This was not by far the first year I have followed this issue. Part of my professional job is to understand media trends and how those trends influence young people. I not only follow, but read the research put out by the Geena Davis Institute and Women’s Media Center every year on the jobs offered to women in the media. I’m a follower of the Women’s Sports Foundation who also track participation of women in sport at all levels of play and leadership. That’s my focus, so when the topic of the lack of nominations for the African American community surfaced, it didn’t shock me nor offended me. I already knew much of the data. This post however, is about women. It’s the women of the pageantry arts and how we are represented. 

Let me be clear, I don’t present information like this without facts to back it up. This is one main reason I can’t speak to the issue of ethnicity in our activity. We don’t have the data and I can’t go to a website and look it up as easily as I can with gender. However, it is important to note that just because this post is about women, does not mean I believe that we demonstrate equal representation in the African American, Asian, or Hispanic communities; although the United States Census tells a different story. One look at a Dayton arena floor or in the stands toward the judges and it’s easy to see that we have a diversity issue.
This post is about women and I get my information from 4 websites: Music For All, Drum Corps International. Winter Guard International, and Guide Star . My numbers come from these websites and are as accurate as the website presents it. Let’s start with the numbers.
All three national pageantry organizations have common denominators and although each organization is structured differently and present different elements in our activity, they all have certain elements in common related around the competitive aspects of our sport. Some venture more into education than others, but they all have a competitive component. These numbers are my main focus.
All three organizations have judges. I looked at the judges for all major finals events in 2015 and came up with these numbers.
World Class
Prelims–11 judges
Semi Finals–11 judges
Finals–11 judges
Bands of America

Thursday Prelims–7 Judges
Friday Prelims–7 Judges
Semi-Finals–7 Judges
Finals–7 Judges
Scholastic A–10 Judges
Independent A–10 Judges
Scholastic Open–10 Judges
Independent Open–10 Judges
Scholastic World–10 Judges
Independent World–10 Judges
There were a total of 121 judges in the major finals shows in 2015 and 13% were female. I am not including WGI Percussion or Winds in these numbers for sake of space, but make no mistake…those numbers are worse.
Now I want you to look at the Hall of Fames. All three organizations have Hall of Fames. I’ve broken them out by organization.
DCI–Began Hall of Fame started in 1985
Total honorees–119
Jim Jones Leadership Award–DCI Started in 1997
Music For All–Hall of Fame started in 2003
The total female honorees in the three organizations is 11%.

So why does it matter? What’s the big damn deal? The big damn deal is because we are a collective activity made up of a significant amount of women who perform, teach, judge, and administrate. No one to my knowledge is capturing this information across the country as to what the total percentage of females to males are participating in various aspects, because if they did, I think the ratio’s would look a lot different than percentages in the low teens, specifically color guard. Growing up female in America bares its challenges as we struggle with the concepts of body image perpetrated by the media and messages received in the work place. This is crucial in guard specifically, because it appears, (I have no numbers as no one collects these numbers), that the men design and choreograph at significantly higher numbers and the women tech. In our activity, designers make more money than techs. That is a fact. We don’t collect information on salary or hours worked in this activity, because if we did, someone might be able to make a true case for inequality in pay.
Speaking of salaries…let me throw out some numbers for you. 
These are the collective salaries for top CEO’s of the three major national organizations as reported through Guide Star and all of these salaries are made by men.  Music For All comes closest to having an equal ratio of male/female equality in the workplace, as the CFO is a woman. They have approximately an equal number of managers and directors in various capacities within the organization, however the top dog is still a man and according to Guide Star, still makes almost $60,000 more a year. Now, I am not here to make a case as to who deserves more money based on experience or resume. All I can do is show you the numbers. WGI however, is male driven at the top in terms of executive positions and the board of directors. There are 16 members who sit on the Board of Directors at WGI and 4 are women. Music For All has 17 listed Board members with 2 women represented. Their Educational Team consists of 10 members and 1 is a woman. DCI’s Board of Director’s is all male. How diverse of them.
Women make up on 14% of the Board of Director’s of the nationally based organizations combined.
Here is what I can say. I can say that all of these numbers are as accurate as the websites state and what they reported to the IRS. I can’t say why we are male heavy and why females are missing in the ranks of the leadership positions. As someone who works daily in government statistics, I know that multiple factors make up those numbers. It could be something as simple as women didn’t want the positions. It could be that no woman applied for the CEO positions for the three organization’s. I know when I look at funding for the non profits my organization funds, that before dime one is given, we look at the make up of the board. We want to know if the people they represent, are represented in leadership. It is important that the face of the participant has a voice in leadership. Only a woman can tell you what it is like to be a woman, just like only a black man can tell you what it is like to be a black man. Same thing goes for being gay, Hispanic, Muslim, or disabled. If women don’t have a strong leadership voice at the top, then how can we advocate for their participation? 
I now want to stretch this and bring to a point I’ve been speaking about and writing about all winter season. The topic is training. We have an issue with defining and understanding training in the color guard activity. We don’t really try to create dialog around it, except to say that guards need better training. Most of our judges in the winter guard activity are male, but the ones that are female are mostly in the IA caption. There are no numbers to my knowledge as to how many judges we have nationwide locally and nationally, but from what I can tell, judges up top in GE and DA tend to be male and IA judges tend to be female…give or take. Most of our chief judges are male and most of those males are GE or DA judges. Most circuit Presidents are male. The females in the activity are heavy on the technician side. Now…let’s ask this question. Who should be making the decisions on how we discuss training? Should it be the techs of the programs and the IA judges whose job it is to mention training at every turn of every show and who are basically sitting on the floor with the kids? Most of our trainings at the local level are designed based and when I brought this up to three different circuits, you know what I got? “No one cares about this topic. No one will come.” Bullshit! I call foul. Get the right women in the right place to promote training and the people will come. We know what to say, because we are in the trenches at higher numbers.
When Paradigm spun the flag with their feet in 2005, it was without a doubt one of the most impressive flag features ever seen at WGI to that point. I was the lead tech of the program. Want to know how many judges in critique asked me how I cleaned it and what my approach was? Zero. When WGI did a focus piece on it, it was the choreographer who was featured, but it was the tech team that made it fabulous and stayed up late at night analyzing the video second by second. What is the value we place on the roles in our activity?
I write this because I don’t believe there are people who sit around all day in the leadership of the pageantry arts trying to screw over women. I think it’s pretty simple. We just haven’t paid attention. I write this because, as a tech, I get called a bitch all the time, but it’s my job to make sure the final product is technically solid. That’s a tough job. I write this, because there is a difference in our activity on how we speak about women vs. men. I’ve heard people say that male designers have that creative temper, but as a woman we’ve been called bitches for expecting our rifle line to catch correctly and doing the hard job of “again.” I write this, because I want a teenage girl to look up into the stands and see that one day she too, can be a GE judge or the CEO of WGI, DCI, or MFA. I want her to know she can design and choreograph and make money doing it! I want her to know that she can administrate. I haven’t even mentioned contest administrators. T&P judges. Announcers. How many female announcers do we hear at any national event? Every one of these people get paid. Money is made and it is mostly made by men. We should care about this topic and do something about it. It’s time.
This is a complex subject and it isn’t going away. My recommendation? Put a diversity committee together across the country to look into it. Oh by the way, I sit on Pinellas County’s Diversity Committee…in case you need some guidance.