Sunday Breakfast: Elizabeth “Liza” …
9 May 2019
“I have a wonderful story about a dead body in an ice house.”
How’s that for an icebreaker? Elizabeth “Liza” Yntema of Winnetka has several such compelling stories to share, but they are not Gillian Flynn-esque forays into the macabre. They are family anecdotes and meant to illustrate how she, along with her husband, Mark Ferguson, became among the most effective of Chicago area philanthropists. It’s not about how much they have raised and donated, which is considerable, but the ways they have strategically directed that money to affect actual change.
Turns out Yntema comes from a long line of inspirational “kick ass women,” like her “grammy,” who lived to be 104 and at the age of 80, tied herself to the Illinois State House in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. It was these women who inspired her to resolve, upon her 40th birthday, to try one new thing a year that scared her or required a new skill—rowing, tap dancing, or climbing a mountain.
“I don’t learn that fast,” Yntema shares with a laugh, “so now it’s about every two or three years that I try a new adventure. Last year when I turned 60, I walked the Camino de Santiago. If I try really hard, I can rise to slightly above mediocre, but I have a lot of fun. I’m really enthusiastic about a lot of things.”
Paramount among those things is philanthropy, especially in the area of arts, youth services, and promoting gender equality. Yntema and Ferguson have marshalled their efforts on behalf of such institutions as the Hubbard Street Dance Company, the Lyric Opera, and the Chicago Jazz Phil- harmonic, as well as Youth Guidance and the Springboard Foundation, which funds non-profit grassroots organizations that focus primarily on after school and supplemental education programs. In 2013, the couple created a program at Holy Trinity High School to fund college visits for students in need. That program has expanded to a national initiative.
Her latest endeavor is her most ambitious yet, the Dance Data ProjectTM (DDP), which received its nonprofit 501(c)(3) status earlier this year. The DDP addresses long institutionalized leadership gender imbalance in ballet in America and abroad. Yntema, a Boston native, danced between the ages of 3 and 13. An avid ballet-goer, she began to notice that the primarily female audience and supporters of ballet were not being represented onstage or off. Consider, she says, Chicago theater—which is nationally renowned for the gender and ethnic diversity of the leadership guiding the companies—artisans shaping the productions and playwrights telling a wider range of stories, not to mention the casts bringing those stories to life. This was not the case in the ballet world, Yntema found.
“Season after season, production after production, the choreography was being done by mostly white men,” she says. “I would ask about it and the response was that women were not really interested in choreography or that there were no good women choreographers. That didn’t sound right, so I started doing research at my kitchen table.” Turns out she was onto some- thing.
Read the whole profile in the Daily North Shore.
BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
At January’s end, vibrant Liza Yntema will roll out the Dance Data Project™ (DDP), which could not only transform the ballet community and impact the national and international arts environment but also change philanthropy for women.
Using over 2,000 records of choreographic works in DDP’s database on this online platform, Liza will promote dance equity by providing data analysis, advocacy, and programming. In addition, she will showcase women-led companies, festivals, venues, and special programs. Her work will undoubtedly have bottom line results with the development of grants to female choreographers and women in leadership positions as well as to women composers; costume, set and light designers; and photographers.
Soon to set out soon on a listening tour of the top 50 dance companies in the country from Sacramento to Philadelphia, whose stories will be featured on DDP’s website, Liza paused to tell us:
“Gender equality in relationship to major companies is a topic that is barely breached in the dance world. I feel a moral obligation to lead the charge. What we see on the ballet stage is, for the most part, a male’s vision, even if the story is supposed to be from a woman’s point of view.
“I have commissioned ballet works that come from a woman’s perspective, but I have also wanted to do much more. On my fact-finding tour I will be looking at the number of male versus female artistic and executive directors at the top U.S. dance companies and which companies pay the most versus the least—and where women fall on that spectrum.”
Read the full interview, featuring DDP Founder and President Liza Yntema and DDP Director of Research Isabelle Vail, here.
On April 2, Dance Data Project’s founder, Liza Yntema, appeared on Business First AM to discuss DDP’s advocacy for equitable salaries and opportunity for women in dance. Ms. Yntema highlighted the companies leading the way and smaller cities where companies are going above-and-beyond, advocating beyond their regional status. Our recent findings, available in our February Executive and Artistic Leadership Report , were at the forefront of the discussion.
Watch the clip below and learn more about Liza around our website!
By Jennifer Stahl
The lack of female leaders in ballet is an old conversation. But a just-launched website, called the Dance Data Project, has brought something new to the discussion: actual numbers, not just anecdotal evidence.
The site has published a report on leadership pay among the 50 biggest ballet companies in the U.S, broken down by gender.Here are some of the most interesting findings:
Unsurprisingly, there are major gaps between male and female artistic directors.
- Fewer than one third of artistic directors are women.
- In 2017, female artistic directors made 68 cents for every dollar men made in the same position (up from 62 cents in 2016).
- Out of the top 10 highest-earning artistic directors, only one was a woman in 2017.
- The highest-paid male artistic director earned $900,000 in 2017, while the highest-paid female artistic director earned $325,000.
Read the full article on the Pointe Magazine blog.
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