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Study Reveals Gender Gap in Museum Directors

marcia tucker

New Museum founder and long-time director Marcia Tucker (second from left) with dealer Marian Goodman, curator Simon Watson and curator France Morin. Courtesy the New Museum Archives.

A joint study by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), released yesterday, finds that museum directors that are female make lower salaries than those that are male. The study’s research considered two main questions: “What is the current state of women in art museum directorships?” and “What are some factors that may drive the gender gap?”

Some of the study’s most notable findings show that, on average, women museum directors make $0.79 to every $1.00 of their male counterparts and $0.71 to every male dollar in the top tier museums whose annual budgets exceed $15 million. However, the study also found that in the lower tiered museums, that is, those with budgets less than $15 million, women directors made more than male directors. In this segment, women directors made an average of $1.02 compared to the $1.00 for male directors.

The AAMD/NCAR study also found that the gender gap could be accounted for by the salary disadvantage dealt to directors that achieve their positions through internal promotions from within an institution. The same disadvantage falls to both men and women; however, the percentage of women promoted to director internally is greater than men, accounting for some aspect of the salary differential between their male colleagues.

As reported by the New York Times in regards to the study, many professional arts training programs formed in recent years have helped facilitate the success of more female museum curators and professionals, landing many of them directorial positions in many mid-size museums. These have helped add more diversity to the professional museum pool, even if it was a man coming out of one of those programs (the Center for Curatorial Leadership) who landed the biggest job, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which boasts a $52 million budget.

The Report on Gender Gaps in Museum Directorships, spearheaded by New Museum Director Lisa Philips, AAMD’s Professional Issues Committee Chair, was released yesterday in time for International Women’s Day.

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