What started as a group of like-minded women getting casual drinks in Midtown has grown into the Broadway Women’s Alliance, serving women in the business of theatre all over the U.S. In their first 2017 meetup, “we just started talking about the industry—about our frustrations, our hopes, our dreams—and it all just became a group therapy session almost,” remembers co-founding member Jennifer Isaacson.
As these meetups continued, the group’s members started to realize that they shared common goals and began putting together plans to turn those dreams into reality.
“It was at the end of 2019 that we realized ‘Ok, if we have if we have goals and things we want to accomplish, we need to be able to raise and have a bank account,” Isaacson continues, recounting how the Alliance came to exist in an official capacity only weeks before the pandemic began.
“Our organization was officially founded in January of 2020 and then six weeks later, our entire industry shut down,” recalls Diana Salameh, another co-founding member. “We wanted to be a lifeline for each other.”
Even in the face of the pandemic, BWA was able to provide significantly more programming in 2020 than they had ever anticipated, including pulse-taking check-ins, financial insight training, resume and interview workshops, book clubs, panels, and trivia nights. BWA also started an event series called You Should Know Her, which spotlighted various women within the industry, with their first iteration highlighting women on the front line: ushers, box office staff, and front of house staff. July 8 of 2021, BWA finally had their first in-person event.
How else has BWA grown since making the decision to become a more formalized organization? “The biggest way we've grown is in our numbers,” says Isaacson. “We've also seen women getting jobs, for example, through their networking with BWA.”
One of the organization’s undertakings for 2022 is a docu-series called Here’s To The Ladies Who. “It’s a visual celebration of women during the shutdown,” says Isaacson. “It's everything from ushers to producers to ad agency associates,” explains Salameh, “It's everybody in the industry. What was originally intended to be a small series ended up featuring over 100 women. “Part of the reason for this series is so that generations of women in the future know what we went through,” Salameh continues, “and we can continue to be connected by that experience, learn from that experience.”
BWA is also planning a Mother’s Day event for May, which they see as another way to keep the women of theatre industry connected to and supporting one another. Salameh says that BWA’s founders have had many of their members who have chosen not to have children show interest learning how to support their colleagues who are mothers. “We want to have more empathy for each other,” she says.
Even with these success stories under BWA’s belt, its founders don’t believe that the organization is in its final iteration. During the pandemic, BWA’s numbers have grown to include members outside of New York, and its founders would like that trend to continue. “I would like to see this group expand, even in a bigger way beyond New York,” says Salameh, adding that she is also hoping to continue to reach out to other communities of women “that can help us grow, and we can help them grow.”
“We want to make sure that when you walk into a room that there is another woman who's standing there with you and that you're connected to her within this industry.”
The first episode of Here’s To The Ladies Who, directed by Heather Arnson, produced by Catherine Markowitz, and narrated by Ashley Park, is available to watch on the Broadway Women’s Alliance website. The Broadway Women’s Alliance was co-founded by Isaacson, Salameh, Molly Barnett, Katie Dalton, Tracy Geltman, Kristen Rathbun and Beth Watson.