Looking Back, Looking Forward: Museum Leadership in 2016


First, we would like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who viewed, read, tweeted, commented, signed up to follow or otherwise joined us in musing about museums and leadership as well as women and museums during 2015. And you should know you weren’t alone. We almost tripled our visitors with 14,852 in 2015 versus 4,4119 the year before. That amounted to 23,262 views, an average of 1.7 per reader, but who’s counting?

It is particularly gratifying that outside of the United States, home to the majority of our readers, we reached folks in 92 different countries and territories this year. Many of you are in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, but it is awesome to think that the problems and questions of museum leadership and of women in the museum world are common to directors, curators and museum educators whether you are in the Palestinian Territories, Botswana or Cyprus or 90 other places.

We recognize and value the naysayers among you who think our focus on women in the museum workplace is too narrow, too myopic or too simplistic.  We continue to believe that inclusion at its most basic level is first and foremost about equality between the sexes.  It does not exist in most American and global workplaces. But without it, diversity in every other sense of the definition is just so much window dressing.

Your favorite posts were: “Can Museum Women Have It All?” followed by “Is Negotiating Not a Museum Thing?” and “Ambition in the Museum Workplace.” Together they netted a whopping 4, 651 readers. Not like the Kardashians we realize, but for us big numbers.

So with all of that in mind, here are some predictions, hopes and fears for the coming year:

For individuals: We hope individuals engage in active career planning that includes salary discussion and negotiation; We wonder if we will see more women tapped as CEOs of large museums (and we’ll see more women board chairs, too); And we hope that we hear museum staffers speak up when women and minorities are left out of the conversation or diminished intentionally or unintentionally. Remember what Gloria Steinem says: “If you’re called a bitch, smile sweetly and say thank you.”

For organizations: We wonder whether more museums will commit to gender equity in pay and promotions through transparent and accountable practices; We hope that leadership development of boards and staffs is an encouraged, supported, and ongoing practice; And we hope museums, historic houses and heritage organizations will make 2016 the year for personnel; that they will create a personnel policy if they do not have one and invest in their staff.

For the museum field:  We see strong leadership for gender equity as an ethical imperative for our professional associations and leading museums;  We hope that just as it’s taken on diversity, AAM will see gender as a topic that matters to our industry and that ongoing gender issues also relate to the overarching topic of inclusion; We hope to see more leadership development opportunities at conferences and in the programming of our professional associations.  Last, we hope to see the field identify and model successful, sustainable ways to achieve greater diversity of staff, boards and audiences in all types of museums.


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