AAM Take-aways on Leadership and Women+Museums

Us with Jessica Ferey

We returned from three days at AAM, where we taught in a Getty Foundation funded program on leadership, exhausted, energized, and full of ideas. In no particular order, here are some thoughts:

  • We were part of a seven-person team working with 48 museum leaders from around the globe. We learned as much as we taught. We were humbled by the kindness, courtesy and creativity of our students, many of whom were learning in a second language.
  • We realized that while many issues of leadership are global–there are hierarchical institutions everywhere–leadership is lonely–finding a first job takes courage–changing jobs takes more courage—we also understood how independent some American employees are, whether in museum land or elsewhere, and how Americans sometimes value the individual over the collective.
  • Marsha Semmel spoke to the group about the skills necessary for 21st century leadership. We were struck by how even Millennials find themselves awash in email, social media, apps, voice mail, and how moving quickly while constantly sifting and sorting is one of the great adaptive skills of the 21st century.
  • Anne did a brilliant mini-workshop on career planning, which brought home to us, yet again, how many people let their careers happen to them rather than working to shape them. If you are interested in this, please check out Michele Martin’s great career blog, The Bamboo Project.
  • I did a session on Self-Awareness. Here we were all reminded how few of us take the time to “check-in;” to acknowledge how we feel or felt in a given workplace situation and to use that information as we go forward interacting with colleagues, donors, trustees and our communities. Or as Marsha Semmel put it in a Gertrude Stein-like moment: Communication, communication, communication.
  • Although the Getty program left little time for us to attend many AAM sessions, we were heartened by the sessions dealing with workplace issues–Crucial Conversations–as an example and the rogue session on Museum Labor Practices held at the Ger Art Gallery.
  • One session we did attend was Nina Simon’s on Building Community. Even when what Nina’s doing doesn’t directly apply to our own lives, her generosity and her singular way of approaching a life in the museum world, makes hearing her a pleasure.
  • Our focus group meetings with women for our new book, Women+Museums, were informative as well. A big shout out to everyone who made the time to sit and talk to us. Thank you! It was, however, alarming to think that hostility, groping and inappropriate remarks continue to plague women in museums, even in sites that have the resources to know and understand the law. And while museums are likely not alone in grappling with this problem–the idea of using gender–specifically young women–to attract older, male donors leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.

By the way, the photo accompanying this post is of us with Jessica Ferey, the mastermind behind Equalarty, her blog about gender equality and arts leadership.  We met up Jessica at AAM and had a great time talking about our projects and her career.

If you attended an AAM session on leadership, workplace behavior or gender-related issues, please tell us about it.

’til next time,

Joan Baldwin


4 Comments on “AAM Take-aways on Leadership and Women+Museums”

  1. Greg Stevens says:

    It was wonderful to have you part of the Getty leadership series. Indeed, I learned much from your collective wisdom and that of our colleagues. And once again I was reminded of the generous nature of our field. Thank you.

  2. Was there any discussion of leadership failure relating to the closure of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) or the Cooper Hewitt (NY)?

    • Thanks for your question, Elizabeth. The focus of the Getty Fellow leadership sessions was on building and honing leadership skills at the individual level. Leadership failure was alluded to more as part of one’s personal leadership journey.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s