Facebook bans Dallas Opera from using promotional photo of woman conductor

6 March 2020, 14:12 | Updated: 6 March 2020, 14:25

Facebook bans Dallas Opera from using promotional photo of woman conductor
Facebook bans Dallas Opera from using promotional photo of woman conductor. Picture: Dallas Opera/Instagram

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The image was flagged on the grounds of “discrimination of gender”.

Facebook banned the Dallas Opera from using a photo of a female conductor to promote the application process for their prestigious program.

The social media giant warned that the content – an ad for the Hart Institute for Women Conductors – was not in keeping with its “job posting” policies.

Speaking to The Dallas Morning News, director of artistic administration David Lomelí said the company had appealed to Facebook three times but received no response. The newspaper says it was unable to reach Facebook for comment.

Just after 10am on Wednesday, Dallas opera published a new post without the flagged photograph. It now reads:

“Women conductors from around the world and American women opera administrators are invited to apply to the sixth residency of the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors (HIWC) at The Dallas Opera, a unique program designed to further the careers of distinctively talented female conductors and opera administrators [cont.].”

Lomelí says the post is now running again, but “without the collateral we want to have” (meaning, without the image).

Read more: Marin Alsop quits Baltimore Symphony amid financial troubles for the orchestra >

The original image was a photo of conductor Molly Turner leading the orchestra, during their final concert of November. The image was accompanied by an invitation for female conductors to “apply now”.

Facebook sent an electronic notification to the opera company, saying it could not gear the advert “only to female applicants”. It specified that the post was pulled down on the grounds of “discrimination of gender” – despite the program being for women.

Lomelí claimed it’s obvious an “algorithm” made the decision, without being reviewed by a human being.

“We have discovered more than 400 conductors all over the world,” Lomelí said. “This is a very serious initiative, and to be flagged like this? It just didn’t sit well.”

Read more: Eight of the world’s 100 top conductors are now women, compared to just one in 2013 >

The Hart Institute, one of the world’s top programs for fostering female conducting talent, is now celebrating its fifth year. The two-week residency provides intensive training for experienced conductors.

In an ABC News article in November, Dallas Opera’s chief advancement and strategy officer Lisa Bury said: “Historically speaking, it’s a man on the podium leading an orchestra. There have been women, and very successful women, but the vast majority have been male, and in an era, i.e. the 21st century, it’s time as an industry to collectively improve the ratio and work together to achieve gender parity at the podium.”

Classical music critic Scott Cantrell wrote about the program in 2019 for Dallas News, saying: “Times are changing, but a woman conducting an orchestra remains the exception to the rule. To their great credit, both the Dallas Opera and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra are taking leads in promoting women – conductors and others – in classical music.”

The application deadline for The Hart Institute is 1 May 2020.