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Association of Art Museum Directors study finds gender gap among salaries of art museum directors
Seattle Art Museum Director Kimerly Rorschach. Photo by Duke University Photography.

DALLAS, TX.- The Association of Art Museum Directors and the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, today released findings from a research study (which can be found online on the NCAR website) designed to understand the gender gap in art museum directorships and to explore potential factors to help AAMD member institutions advance towards greater gender equality. Through a combination of quantitative analysis and interviews, NCAR and AAMD researchers – led by Zannie Giraud Voss, Director, SMU NCAR, and Christine Anagnos, Executive Director, AAMD – examined the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships. They found that women hold fewer than 50% of directorships and that the average female director’s salary lags behind that of the average male director – with overall disparities driven by mostly the largest museums.

In 2013, AAMD conducted a survey of its members, and the data collected from 211 of its members (a 97% response rate) included each institution’s operating budget, endowment, the director’s (or top official’s) salary and the director’s gender. Additional research was collected on each director’s tenure in his or her current position and on the position held prior to his or her current directorship (with previous position data found for 193 of the 211 directors). The study sought to answer two main questions: What is the current state of women in art museum directorships? What are some factors that may drive the gender gap? The NCAR and AAMD study had several key findings:

· 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).

Other factors besides gender that may have influenced the salary and representation differentials noted above were examined through qualitative analysis and interviews with executive search consultants who work with art museums. The study found that a position a director held before entering his or her current position had an effect on average salary: if the person attained the position through internal promotion, he or she was at a salary disadvantage compared to peers hired from other institutions. Directors who previously held a non-director job were also at a salary disadvantage when compared to their peers who had previously held the top position at another institution. These observations are true for both men and women, but the number of women who have become directors through internal promotion is greater, and these factors may have contributed in part to salary disparities.

A visual summary of the study can be found online at the National Center for Arts Research. In addition to Voss and Anagnos, co-authors of the study are Anne Marie Gan, SMU MA/MBA Class of 2015, and Alison D. Wade, Chief Administrator, Association of Art Museum Directors. The authors gratefully acknowledge Lisa Phillips, AAMD Trustee and Chair of the Association’s Professional Issues Committee, for spearheading this project.

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