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Article Published: 15 Oct 2021

Women Charge Forward

Gender parity in opera has seen promising change in recent years, with women now holding 47 percent of general director positions at North American opera companies of all budget sizes. However, in companies with budgets of more than $10 million, women hold only 17 percent of general director positions. The fight isn’t over, but OPERA America’s Mentorship Program for Women Administrators, now in its fourth year, is continuing the battle.

The Mentorship Program aims to support the advancement of women administrators by pairing three protégés with three leaders in the field. Each team identifies barriers and achievement gaps and then establishes and executes an action plan for professional growth.

The Mentorship Program is already seeing results, as some recent promotions can be linked directly to the program. “Participating in the Mentorship Program prepared me to take the next step in my career,” said Julia Noulin-Mérat, a 2019 protégé who co-led Guerilla Opera at the time and is now general director and CEO of Opera Columbus. Her transition conforms to the trend of women at smaller companies being hired into increasingly larger organizations, resulting in a steady increase in the number of women in general director roles at mid-sized companies.

The recently announced 2021 protégés are poised to become field leaders. San Francisco Opera’s Katherine Baltrush Little has been paired with Anh Le of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, with the aim of complementing Little’s operations expertise with Le’s marketing experience. Andrea Puente-Catán of San Diego Opera will coach Julliard faculty member Mary Birnbaum in fundraising skills. Alison F. Turner will work with Francesca Zambello to gain broader industry experience and prepare for a career in administration.

2021 Mentor-Protégés Teams

The Mentorship Program for Women Administrators is supported by OPERA America’s Backstage Brunch.

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