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Canadian Arts are Very White

The state of diversity among leadership roles within Canada’s largest arts and cultural institutions

Written by Charlie Wall-Andrews, Rochelle Wijesingha, Wendy Cukier, Owais Lightwala

Published in the journal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in 2022

This paper aims to answer the following research questions: Does the Canadian Arts Summit’s membership (i.e. Canada‚Äôs largest cultural institutions) reflect Canada’s diversity? What is the state of diversity among leadership roles within Canada’s largest cultural institutions when viewed through a geographical, gender and racial diversity, and intersectional lens?


Employing a geographic, gender, racial diversity and intersectional lens, the authors investigated the largest and most influential arts and cultural organizations in Canada (n = 125) to examine their leadership diversity. The authors found that there is a disconnect between the diversity of Canada and the leadership representation among the largest arts organizations. The authors rationalize the management implications of a lack of diversity leading Canada’s cultural sector.


The leadership of major arts organizations in Canada does not reflect the diversity of Canada’s population. For example, among 125 Canadian Arts Summit organizations, only 5.7% of CEOs are racialized compared to 94.3% who are White. The findings show similar results for lack of diversity in the Artistic Director and Chair of the Board roles.


There is limited research using this methodology to investigate leadership diversity, especially in the arts and culture sector. This research can create a benchmark for the sector to improve the status quo. The value of this research aims to encourage policy actors and arts leaders to address diversity and inclusion within their organizations and the communities they aim to serve. This research provides the foundation for future studies exploring leadership diversity and representation in the Canadian arts sector.