Three Protégé-Mentor Teams Selected for OPERA America’s 2020 Mentorship Program for Women
OPERA America is pleased to announce the three pairs of protégés and mentors selected for the organization’s Mentorship Program for Women, now in its third year. The Mentorship Program for Women provides a unique opportunity for promising opera company administrators to be paired with established industry leaders who can help them identify barriers to advancement and develop plans for professional growth.
This year’s participants are:
See below for profiles of the participants.
The Mentorship Program was created in 2018 to help advance the goals of OPERA America’s Women’s Opera Network, an action-oriented affinity group dedicated to addressing and advancing gender parity in the opera field. The Women’s Opera Network seeks to provide ongoing support for emerging female professionals in opera and to design programs that nurture and advance talented women.
“We are committed to increasing representation and gender equity through initiatives like the Mentorship Program for female administrators,” noted Laura Lee Everett, chief programs officer at OPERA America. “Our efforts in this area were fueled by the success of our Opera Grants for Female Composers, and we strive to extend our impact to women in all roles across our entire field.”
Female leadership at professional opera companies has increased noticeably within the past five years. Women occupied 46 percent of leadership positions in 2019, up from just 36 percent in 2015. A large part of this growth was driven by small companies, those with operating budgets under $250,000, 65 percent of which were led by women in 2019. Mid-sized companies also saw a large increase in the gender ratio during that period, from 13 percent to 50 percent, while the larger companies saw more modest gains.
Each protégé-mentor pair will develop a personalized plan for professional development based on the goals of the protégé. They will work together during 2020 through remote and in-person sessions, including meetings at Opera Conference 2020 this May in Seattle. Each protégé also will make a site visit to her mentor’s opera company.
The pairings were announced on January 25, 2020, at OPERA America’s fourth annual Backstage Brunch, a social fundraiser at the National Opera Center in New York City that raises support for the Mentorship Program. The event was co-chaired by Astrid Baumgardner, president of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching+Training and head of the Office of Career Strategies at the Yale School of Music, and Jill Steinberg, photographer, board president of National Sawdust and board member of Heartbeat Opera and OPERA America.
The brunch began with a performance of excerpts from Lisa De Spain’s No Ladies in the Lady’s Book (Rachel J. Peters, librettist) and That Hell-Bound Train (David Simpatico, librettist) and Kamala Sankaram’s Taking Up Serpents (Jerre Dye, librettist), Looking at You (Rob Handel, librettist) and Thumbprint (Susan Yankowitz, librettist); both composers are recipients of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers. A panel of leading women in the industry, including protégé-mentor pair Aliana de la Guardia and Lee Anne Myslewski, and composer Paola Prestini, co-founder and artistic director of National Sawdust, discussed their experiences as women in the opera industry. The event concluded with remarks from renowned director Francesca Zambello, artistic and general director of The Glimmerglass Festival and artistic director of Washington National Opera.
“The Backstage Brunch granted me such a great opportunity to connect with people in the opera industry that I had not met before, and this kind of networking is one of the most important aspects of moving women forward into leadership roles,” said Piper Gunnarson, executive director of On Site Opera and a protégé in the 2018 Mentorship Program for Women. “This program had such an impact on me and continues to benefit women in the opera industry.”