Gender Gap Among U.S. Museum Directors Persists, Study Finds

Although women now comprise 47.6 percent of museum directors in the United States, an increase of 5 percentage points since 2013, gender disparities in the field persist, a study by the and finds.

Based on surveys of AAMD member institutions and interviews with female museum directors and executive search consultants, the report, (17 pages, PDF), found that despite the recent increase in the number of female museum directors, women on average earned only 73 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. A follow-up to a (15 pages, PDF) released by the same groups, the study also found that museum type and budget size were influential factors in the representation of and salary differentials for women, with the majority of museums with budgets of at least $15 million — roughly the top quartile — employing male directors (70 percent) and the majority of museums with budgets of under $15 million employing female directors (54 percent). Women also held a majority of directorships in college and university museums (60 percent) and culturally specific museums (57 percent), while men held the majority of directorships at single artist (67 percent), encyclopedic (59 percent), and contemporary (54 percent) museums.

According to the study, female directors of museums with budgets of at least $15 million earned 75 cents for every $1 earned by male directors in 2016, up from 70 cents in 2013. However, women directors at smaller museums earned 98 cents for every $1 earned by their male counterparts, down from $1.01 in 2013. The largest pay disparity was at encyclopedic museums, where female directors averaged only 69 cents for every $1 earned by their male counterparts, while the smallest gap was at culturally specific institutions, where women earned 91 cents for every dollar earned by a male director.

In interviews, many women directors and search consultants noted the recent uptick in turnover in the field, which they saw as perhaps heralding a shift in leadership and management norms. Interviewees also mentioned a number of barriers to achieving gender equality in the field, including board and staff gender composition, boards' readiness to accept and support change, and candidates' own assertiveness and confidence.

"." Association of Art Museum Directors and National Center for Arts Research Press Release 03/22/2017. "." Association of Art Museum Directors and National Center for Arts Research Report 03/22/2017.