The Sydney Comedy Festival is underway amid calls for greater representation of women who make up only 17 per cent of the acts this year.
Of the 219 shows registered online, only 36 of the acts are solo women.
One of these solo acts, Maddie Houlbrook-Walk, has been performing across Sydney and the United States for the past three years and believes women have to work twice as hard to get half as far.
"I could never get on stage and perform a show that seems unrehearsed, whereas a lot of boys are getting booked for shows where their brand is being unrehearsed,” she said.
Talented women are present in comedy festivals around Australia, with women making up three out of four winners of the Barry Award for most outstanding show at Melbourne Comedy Festival since 2014.
Women are socialised not to ask for more
However, women are also under-represented at the Melbourne festival.
In promotional material for comedy festivals or fringe festivals, images of male comedians dominate.
"A lot of comedy festivals around Australia don’t put on many women in solo shows. Often women are booked as part of a larger group act or duo,” Houlbrook-Walk said.
She represented NSW for Impro Australia at the Adelaide Fringe Festival after performing in the Cranston Cup, an annual theatresports competition between top-level Australian improvisers.
Also attending Adelaide Fringe was Lillian Silk, Producer of Theatre, Music and Events at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.
"I was excited to see some female comedians. What I noticed was that most of the emerging stages are made up of women, but the bigger stages are all made up of men," Silk said.
Houlbrook-Walk makes up part of this demographic at Sydney Comedy Festival and said that she has been "very lucky to be a part of a program which supports people performing in [the festival] for their first time, so it includes a lot of emerging artists, a lot of which happen to be women.”
When it comes to why it may be that women are not as represented on the bigger stages, Silk has some insight.
"The social conditioning for women is to look nice, don’t play in the mud, and such gender stereotypes are still very prevalent."
“Women are socialised not to ask for more,” Houlbrook-Walk said.
However, Silk points out that women make up the majority of single-ticket buying audiences.
"If their wallets are already open and we program more female-based comedy, there shouldn’t be any barriers in getting audiences to come,” she said.
Sydney Comedy Festival will continue until May 20.