Dallas Museum Directors Fulfill Gender Stereotypes, Says Study

Categories: Visual Art

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In our city, the major museums are the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Kimbell Art Musuem and The Modern, if you count Fort Worth. This means our major arts leaders are Max Anderson, Jeremy Strick, Eric M. Lee and Dr. Marla Price, respectively. It probably won't come as a huge surprise then, when I tell you that recent findings point to gender inequality in museum directorships. Less women hold the positions and those that do earn less.

Last week, the Association of Art Museum Directors and the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University in Dallas released a study that attempts to determine the factors for this gender gap. Out of the 211 directors surveyed, 90 were women; that's 42.6 percent. While it's not overwhelmingly good news,the study found qualitative data that signals this disparity could be attributed to the job a director held prior to the promotion. If a director was hired internally, for example, their salary would be less than someone hired externally. In addition, a director hired from an institution where he or she was previously the director would make more money. This salary gap had nothing whatsoever to do with gender.

What it might signal is that more women are promoted internally and furthermore that there aren't as many hopping from one institution to the next, which could be attributed to the fact that being a female museum director is still a fairly new phenomena. As it continues to occur, maybe the numbers will improve. Then again, that's the hopeful feminist in me. The pessimist says there have been women interested in and qualified for these positions for decades, but it took us 14 years into the 21st century to have this conversation. The official statistics are below.

  • · Out of the 211 directors included in the AAMD survey, 90 directors were female; women held 42.6% of art museum directorships.
  • · On average, female directors earned $.79 cents for $1 that male directors earned. (In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median pay of women nationwide is 82% of that of men.)
  • · Segmented by operating budget, these gender disparities are concentrated in museums with a budget of over $15 million - roughly the top quarter of museums. In this segment of museums, there are fewer female directors than male directors, and female directors earn less on average than their male counterparts - $.71 cents for $1 a male earns.
  • · At museums with budgets under $15 million, the number of female directors is nearly equal to the number of male directors, and, on average, the women earn slightly more ($1.02 for every $1 a male director earns).
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