Women will soon be majority in German orchestras

Women will soon be majority in German orchestras


norman lebrecht

March 05, 2020

The proportion of women in German orchestras has risen to 41 percent, according to the latest stats from the sector association, DOV.

That’s up from just 6 percent in 1971.

Among 129 fulltime orchestras, 14 are already more than 50 percent women.

The DOV head Gerald Mertens says: ‘In the foreseeable future, women will predominate.’



  • AngloGerman says:

    All those who blab about gender equality should have a look at this and then go and have a long hard think about their opinions…

    • read the stats says:

      Why? The trend in the long-term may be upwards, but the current situation is still very much skewed in favour of men. 51.25% of the German population is female, but only 41% of orchestral players are women. Only 14 orchestras have a female proportion over 50%, meaning there are 115 orchestras in which men are over-represented.

      • Tamino says:

        Do women enjoy the privilege, not to be interested statistically in equal quantities in certain professions as men are?
        Or do they have to be interested in every single profession equally?
        What if women are more interested than men in a certain profession?
        Are men then discriminated against?

        It all seems a terrible and irrational violation of basic logic.
        To talk in terms like “skewed in favour of men”.
        As if men were interested in being drafted to serve and die in wars, while women stayed back at home. Or work in mines and die around 40.
        As if the professional realm were the only realm of self realisation. Or is it?
        Or does the capitalistic economy brainwash us to believe it, so labor is available in oversupply and thus can be gotten for cheap…

        Yes, the gender roles are evolving and have changed over the last centuries substantially.

        But are men and women equal in any aspect, or are there differences?
        If they are equal in any aspect, why do we allow any differentiation?
        Why even have different words for them?

    • dealing with ignorance says:

      Women have long been the majority of the students in the conservatories. Now put your head back in the sand.

  • V.Lind says:

    They will dominate a lot of fields. Look at registrations in universities. Women still seem prepared to do the hard work to get somewhere, from learning an instrument and reading music to studying law and medicine. Boys, and young men, seemingly less so.

    Complex set of reasons for this, but it is a real problem. One of the reasons I have never joined in the yammering for more women this, that or the other was that I have been seeing the balance of the sexes tilting over recent years and I knew it would not be an issue for long.

  • Peter says:

    What will happen first is gender equality in German orchestras. A good thing, one would have thought.

    The question is what happens after that point. If appointment were gender blind it would eventually reflect the gender demography of applicants. That would be a combination of the output of music colleges, the orchestra aspirations of potential applicants, and the mix of local vs international players.

  • John Rook says:

    Lots of other things have changed in the last fifty years, too.

  • Mariak says:

    In many orchestras and educational institutions women are majority in many instruments (violin, flute, harp…), yet I don’t hear anyone demanding that more men are present in them… it seems we only care with conductors and composers.

  • Malcolm James says:

    If you look at the top orchestras (e.g. BPO, BRSO, Gewandhaus) the proportion is more like 20-25%. Another regular poster (William Osborne, I think) has previously commented the less prestigious orchestras and orchestras in less desirable locations (which probably pay less) have a higher proportion of women in them. This is something to remember now that the proportion of women in the VPO is gradually increasing. If the proportion stalls at around 20%, this will probably be due to wider, societal attitudes in Germany and Austria, rather than anything specific about the VPO.

    • Anon says:

      Exactly. I totally agree about the lesser paying, less prestigious orchs. having higher percentages of women.

      Also we are getting to the point where making a living as a prof. orch. musician is no longer an financially practical profession. Like classroom teaching, for this reason we may see it become another female dominated profession. Men will look elsewhere for lucrative employment. Women, generally more content with less money and less satisfactory conditions, in the name of their art, will be filling more orch positions.

    • Irrelohe says:

      At the risk of offending those with differing views, I wonder to what extent the issue may be to do with the “structure” of the relevant orchestras. In the UK it is noticeable that the “public sector” orchestras – primarily those operated by the BBC – seem to have a higher proportion of women than the independent self-governing orchestras such as the London Symphony and London Philharmonic. Perhaps the benefits of a stable salary (though not necessarily lower than in the independent orchestras), predictable (and perhaps lower) working hours, perceived better job security albeit a more “tramline” existence etc are more attractive to many women than the perhaps riskier and more uncertain life in the independent orchestras where there may be a little more of an “eat what you kill” mentality (with higher rewards for success but no guarantees against failure). To the extent that there are similar differences in the ownership structure and operation of German orchestras I wonder whether there is a similar result in the make-up of orchestral personnel.

  • F says:

    Misleading headline, there’s a long way to go if men are still over-represented in 115 orchestras! (About 51% of the German population is female and only 14 orchestras have more than 50% women.)

    It’s worth noting that it’s hugely variable between instruments – double basses, brass and percussion remain very much more male than say upper strings. (And the reverse is true for harps.)

  • Karl says:

    Is identity politics the thing in Germany like it is is the US?

    • M2N2K says:

      Looks like it is becoming so, but US is still leads proudly in that unenviable department.

    • Xac Woxo says:

      Oh poor little Karl, always so worried about women having power. It must be hard for you to maintain an erection with so much hate inside your pathetic little head.

  • A millenial says:

    It seems that the author and many commenters will be dead before simple statistical gender equality is reached. Roll on that day