The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Study Shows Ongoing Gender Disparity in US Art Museum Directorships

The second iteration of a gender-gap study spearheaded by the Association of Art Museum Directors and Dallas’s National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University finds that while there has been a 5 percent increase in female directorships since 2013, women still hold fewer than 50 percent of directorships in US art institutions.

Designed to deepen our understanding of the gender disparity in leadership roles at art museums, the study uses 2016 data collected from AAMD member institutions and interviews with female museum directors and executive search consultants who specialize in recruitment for art museums. Researchers compared contemporary and historical factors that contribute to the gender gap. It revealed that the majority of museums with budgets over $15 million are led by men.

The size of an institution’s budget also correlates with how much women get paid compared to their male counterparts: For museums with a budget over $15 million, female directors earned seventy-five cents for every dollar a man earned—an improvement from 2013, when women earned only seventy cents per dollar earned by a man.

Museum types, which are tied to budget size, also help to reveal salary dynamics. The biggest pay disparity is at encyclopedic museums, where female directors average only sixty-nine cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, while the smallest gap is at culturally specific institutions, where women earn ninety-one cents on the dollar. Women hold the majority of directorships in college/university museums (60 percent) and culturally specific museums (57 percent). Men hold the majority of directorships at single artist (67 percent), encyclopedic (59 percent), and contemporary art (54 percent) museums.

“The first step in addressing inequality is acknowledging it,” Lisa Phillips, director of New York’s New Museum and a consultant on the report, said. “Hard data makes it plain and clear.”

Elizabeth Easton, cofounder of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, said that if women could break the “ultimate glass ceiling,” by being hired at a top-tier museum such as The Met, “it would help reduce the unthinking bias against women at the top of other large institutions.”