Oscar nominations will be announced in a couple of weeks. If history holds, the gender inequality in Hollywood will be on full display once again. But film is not the only medium where a marked gender gap persists. I’ll be starting rehearsals soon at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago for a new play I wrote. I’ve been writing plays for 36 years, but this will be the first time I have worked exclusively with women. The cast is comprised entirely of women. The director is a woman. The scenic, lighting and costume designers are women. This is no accident. It is by design. The play, “Twilight Bowl,” was a commission from the Big Ten Theatre Consortium of schools whose theatre departments saw a dire need for plays featuring roles for women in their 20s and so commissioned a group of female playwrights to write those plays. When the Goodman wanted to produce the play, the playwright (me) made it clear that the play should be directed by a woman. And the director (Erica Weiss) made it a priority to put together an all-female design team (Regina Garcia, Cat Wilson, Izumi Inaba, Victoria Deiorio). My artistic team didn’t have to fight for any of this. The Goodman was enthusiastic in its support of our goals and shared our vision entirely. The director and designers who are collaborating on my play would been hired even if they weren’t women. They are some of the most talented artists I’ve ever worked with and they were hardly the only candidates for the jobs. They were outstanding in an outstanding field. So the assembly of this team of women was by design, but it wasn’t hard. If theatres don’t manage to achieve gender parity, audiences should let them know that enough is enough. Vote for gender parity with your wallets, and theatres will sit up and listen. After all, studies consistently show that more than 60 percent of theatregoers are women Which leads me to wonder, why is a production in which women make up more than 50 percent of the artists in any way notable? Why is it still too rare? For the last decade, the League of Professional Theatre Women has been calling for female playwrights, directors and designers to achieve parity in the theatre by 2020. They call their campaign “50/50 in 2020.” At the start of 2019 I want to echo that call. Time is running out. What are we waiting for? There has been commendable progress toward gender parity in the theatre in the past few years. For example, according to “The Count 2.0,” a report recently released by The Lilly Awards Foundation and The Dramatists Guild of America, more female playwrights are seeing their work produced in not-for-profit theatres in the U.S. than ever before. However, plays written by women account for only 29 percent of all plays produced – a percentage that is vastly out of proportion to the number of women writing for the stage, not to mention the number of women in the general population. The numbers for female writers of colour are even more disheartening. Even though the number of productions by women of colour doubled in the last three years, they still only accounted for 6 percent of productions nationwide. For directors and designers the statistics are a little bit better. The LPTW estimates that female directors and designers receive around 37 percent of the professional production opportunities in off-Broadway theatres in New York. But gender parity remains elusive and the progress remains frustratingly slow. Why is this important? Because playwrights, directors, designers and actors shape the stories we tell in the theatre and the stories we tell become the world we live in. If the stories of one group are hierarchized above those of another, that signals to the world that the rest of us are not nearly as important – that when bad things happen to us it is incidental, or worse, deserved. At a time when women are finally speaking out about systemic harassment, violence and silencing, the hierarchizing of men’s stories over ours can be downright dangerous. If women’s stories aren’t given equal weight in popular culture, then women’s stories in, say, a Senate confirmation hearing, are too easily dismissed as dubious, minor, inconsequential, confused. Some might argue that the issue with representation is one of quality. Maybe theatres don’t produce plays by women or hire female directors or female designers because they’re just not that good at what they do. If you still believe that men are more talented than women, see above. It’s because men’s work and men’s stories have been unfairly overvalued for centuries as a result of, and in service to, a hegemony of patriarchy that has excluded multitudes of talented women. You never even got to hear their stories, much less assess their talent. Theatres across the country are putting the finishing touches on their 2019-2020 seasons right now. This is the perfect time for artistic directors to take a look at the plays they have programmed and the artists they have hired and to hire more women if necessary. If they can’t realize gender parity in the upcoming season, then they can make it happen in the one that follows. Fall of 2020 is not too late. If theatres don’t manage to achieve gender parity, audiences should let them know that enough is enough. Vote for gender parity with your wallets, and theatres will sit up and listen. After all, studies consistently show that more than 60 percent of theatregoers are women. Rebecca Gilman is a professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at North-western University. Her plays include “Luna Gale,” “Boy Gets Girl” and “The Glory of Living,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project. Published in Daily Times, January 9th 2019.