Since we spent our last post talking about new leaders, here’s another big elephant in the room: paychecks. How little is too little? This week, among the job announcements that float across Museum-L were two from a state museum system. That’s important because state jobs–unlike private employers–list their salaries. They were, broadly defined, educator’s positions, which seem to be among the most poorly paid in a poorly paid field. The starting salaries were $29,500.
Yesterday I interviewed a graduate student. She’s enrolled at a highly regarded program in California. She is one term into her master’s program. She also just got a coveted internship in a distinguished art museum. She is older than the average graduate student, has worked in the museum world before, and already has a subject-based masters. She’s married to someone with a full time job. That’s the good news. The bad news? She has more than $20,000 in loans. She has at least three semesters and a second internship to complete before receiving her degree. She lives in a very pricey area. She loves her program, which admittedly seems dedicated to placing competent students with good museums, but when I asked if anyone had talked to her about how long it will take her to pay off the loans at a starting salary of say $40,000, the answer was no.
A year ago while a group of us were teaching in the Getty Leadership Program at AAM, one of our colleagues completed a hire via phone. Our colleague returned to the group with a new employee on board, but looking puzzled. He reported that the new hire had simply said yes. No negotiation, no questions about benefits. Just yes.
I offer these stories because they are all facets of a bigger problem: we work in an underpaid, under-resourced field. And for too long, too many people have told us that it is such a privilege to participate, that we should suck it up, deal with the fact that we’re thirty and still need roommates to pay the rent, and revel in the fact that we have a museum position.
I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I think it’s time we started talking about what’s acceptable and what is not. So for all you trustees and human resource committees out there, please understand that hiring someone isn’t a solution if the salary you are offering isn’t more than a living wage. Don’t know what that is? Visit MIT’s living wage calculator: Living Wage. When I put in the town where the jobs mentioned above were advertised, I discovered that if, as a newly-minted graduate, you are offered the starting salary of $29,500, you would make approximately $3 more per hour than that municipality’s living wage. And the living wage is just that. You can cover your expenses, but that’s it. Need I point out that the $24 per day in excess of your living wage won’t allow for much in the way of a daily latte, drinks after work much less a new car payment?
Part of good leadership is recognizing the value of staff. Good staff, happy and contented staff push organizations forward. They make change. They make things grow like endowments and visitation. Staff looking for their next (better paying) position aren’t focused on their jobs. They are discontented, worried and cranky, and they always leave sooner than you expect them to. Why? Because they’re discontented, worried and cranky. So…if you’re thinking of starting a museum, don’t hire unless you can pay someone better than a living wage. If you already run a museum, as a trustee or director, maybe it’s time you had a frank discussion about salaries and how they do or do not drive your institution. And if you’re in the job market, for goodness sake use the living wage calculator to find a baseline. To be really fulfilling a job should feed your soul and your bank account.
And tell us what you think and how you’re managing.
This past week marked Equal Pay Day (April 4) when museum women, along with working women across the United States, finally made as much as their male colleagues did in 2016. Yes, you read that right: It takes an additional four months and three days for women to make as much money as men do in a year.
But it’s actually worse than that.
According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), April 4 is when white women who are not actively parenting catch up. It is another seven weeks for working mothers. The dates for Black women, Native American women, and Latina women are July 31, September 25, and November 2 respectively.
Women make up half the national workforce. In museums, art galleries and historical sites, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting (2016), 41-percent of museum employees are women. Nationally, full-time female workers make 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. If you possess a newly-minted masters degree in museum studies, that fateful 20-percent difference may not seem like much when weighed against a first job offer, the chance to work in a field you love, not to mention the opportunity to grapple with your student debt. But it’s a big deal. According to the National Women’s Law Center, based on today’s figures, over the course of a woman’s career, she will lose approximately $418,000 in wages significantly affecting her retirement, and her Social Security will be almost $4,000 less annually than a man of the same age.
Across the board—including museums, heritage organizations, zoos and botanical gardens—women are paid less. Whether your organization has a transparent salary scale or not–and few non-governmental museums do–this isn’t a myth. A quick glance at Association of Art Museum Directors’ salary information for 2015-2017 or AAM’s salary survey will provide the information you need. And by women we don’t mean only white women receiving 20-percent less than their white male colleagues. Black women’s median earnings are 63.3 cents of white men’s, while Hispanic women earn 54.4 percent. Transgender women–if they are hired at all–are at the bottom of the pay-day food chain.
These problems are compounded in the museum world because salaries are traditionally low, and expectations are high. You are expected to hold a master’s degree; you are expected to have had some experience, and museums and heritage organizations are frequently located in the high-rent district, meaning if you want to live close to work, your living expenses may be higher than normal. Last, and by no means least, the museum world has been rife with complaints (and rightfully so) over the last five years about how white its workforce is. But rarely, if ever, is the field’s lack of diversity attributed to its poor salaries. With a wealth of career choices, why should college-educated woman of color join the museum field only to make less than their white female colleagues who are already making less than men?
So, what are you, as a museum leader supposed to do about what is clearly a nation-wide problem? Here are some suggestions:
- Even if you didn’t do the hiring, know what your staff makes.
- Graph your salaries by gender and race. Discuss the results with your HR director and the personnel committee of your board. If need be, see if you can get a commitment to level the playing field.
- Depending on the size of your organization, consider being more transparent about wages. If your board’s personnel committee and HR can’t stomach an open salary scale, how about salary bands?
- Post wages, or at a minimum, a salary band when jobs open.
- Work to eliminate bias from the hiring process. That includes not only assumptions about race and gender, but also the big elephant in every interview that a woman of child-bearing age will not be as productive as a man of the same age.
- Work to provide paid family leave.
- If you are able to make and live by some of the changes above, be open about it. Let the world know. Most women know they make less than men. Working for an organization that acknowledges that fact and is making change is a good thing.
Great museums, regardless of size or budget, are staffed by smart, imaginative folks who make smart, imaginative decisions not just for the public but for their staffs. Those are the folks you want working for you. Be a leader in pay equity. Be the place they want to work.
It’s January, and it’s the time of year when museum staff and leadership can turn cranky in a heartbeat. Here in the northeast our days start with dark mornings, and are often accompanied by snow and cold. You get the picture. It’s a time for fuzzy slippers and a good book. And if you’re not a book person, I can heartedly recommend the Emerging Museum Professionals Facebook page. Scrolling through their posts, I always find something interesting and/or inspiring to read.
This week Alison Little posted a job description followed by a six-question poll. She asked readers to guess the type of job described –exempt or non-exempt–the salary range or whether it’s not a paid job at all, but rather a volunteer opportunity. Thankfully, she didn’t identify the job’s source since it’s the HR equivalent of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, a Frankenjob of tasks that may need doing, but have no connection to one another. As of January 8 there were 35 comments.
If you are a museum leader or a board member, if you plan to hire sometime in the coming year, you owe it to yourself to read these comments. You need to understand the world of museum HR, and, perhaps most importantly, regardless of your museum role, you need to make a passionate case for investing in staff. Why? Well, the obvious answer is because without staff your museum will grind to a halt. You may have fabulous collections, you may have a great narrative or you may have both, but collections can’t speak on their own. They are mute. They need smart, imaginative folks to knit together all the ideas an individual object, site, experiment, invention or living creature generates, and engage your audience. In short: you need the best staff you can afford, not the most staff for the least amount of money; the best, so you can pay them a living wage so they won’t burn out waiting tables on the side, and so they won’t spend their free time looking for better paying museum jobs.
If you are a museum leader or a board member do not ever laugh ruefully about low salaries and say, “Well, we’re a nonprofit,” as if your 501c-3 designation permits you to pay less than the living wage. Being a nonprofit means the government recognizes the public benefit your organization provides society. Your concern is the trust you hold for the public, not for your shareholders like a for-profit organization. To fulfill that trust you need a decently paid staff. It’s time the museum world addressed this problem. So whether you’re an emerging professional or a mid-career staff member, a museum leader or a board member, when you think of your museum, don’t think of a hierarchy of collections first, followed by buildings, and then staff. Put staff at the top. Value them. Pay them a living wage. (As we’ve said many times here, using MIT’s Living Wage Calculator will help you.) Let’s make 2017 the year museums and heritage organizations commit to raising salaries and benefits. Idealism won’t pay the bills.
Anne Ackerson, Marieke Van Damme and I spoke at the New England Museum Association Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Our title was Women|Museums: Lessons from the Workplace, and we were among the opening sessions of NEMA’s 2016 meeting in Mystic, CT. We expected to begin our program buoyed by a Clinton victory the night before. We counted on Clinton piercing the proverbial glass ceiling until sometime around midnight when clearly a different choice was underway, a fact confirmed when we woke much too early to the news of a pending Trump presidency.
When we began our program, the mood was somber, as if we’d all partied a bit too hard the night before, which, of course, we hadn’t. After introducing ourselves with a little story telling, we walked the group through five myths of gender in the museum world. Here they are:
Feminism is all about women being in power.
The contributions of women in museums are self-evident.
The salary disparity between male and female museum workers is a thing of the past.
There are so many women in the museum field now that gender equity will happen on its own.
It’s not about gender anymore; it’s about race, sexual orientation and class.
Then we asked the group to discuss two questions: If they could send a message to their colleagues, institutions, professional associations and graduate programs about gender in the museum workplace, what would it be? And, what is the one thing they are willing to do to make positive change toward gender equity? Each table had postcards for participants to write messages on. There’s a photograph of them at the top of the page, but they also showed up on Twitter, Facebook and various analog spots throughout the meeting.
When the groups reported out, their remarks clustered around some important topics. The hiring process came under discussion as women questioned why they don’t negotiate job offers, and whether that is something that can and should be taught. One respondent pointed out that if you are simply happy to be chosen, you lose all leverage to negotiate.
The road to a museum career also came under fire, particularly the idea that in too many instances students borrow to go to graduate school, and then find themselves working in unpaid internships as part of some additional rite of passage, all so they can earn, at best, a modest salary. One group’s solution: there should be a field-wide refusal to work for nothing. In addition, participants want women to leave graduate programs feeling confident about traditionally male areas of focus like finance. Can’t read a spread sheet from the business office? Grow your skill set.
Sexual harassment in the workplace was also discussed with participants asking where staff at small museums can go when they need help or advice, and what the board’s role is in seemingly condoning workplace sexism. A participant quipped that Boston area museums still have a Brahmin attitude, meaning you’ve been allowed to be part of the boys’ club, now deal with it. And there was also a shout out for not just doing what men do, but finding new solutions to achieve the same end.
And towards the end one woman reminded us all to “Put on our armor and fight like Amazons.” Which brings us to where we were before the election. This fall we created an advocacy group, Gender Equity in Museums Movement, or GEMM. As yet, we have no official affiliation, but we are beginning talks with AAM to see how GEMM can support its equity agenda. If you’re interested in knowing more about our call to action, please read and share our platform paper, A Call for Gender Equity in the Museum Workplace. If it speaks to you, join us via email, twitter or Facebook. Let’s make museums the poster child for women’s (and that’s all women, not just white women’s) equity. We’re not giving up and neither should you.
And if you were out of the country, living off the grid or you simply stopped reading post- election, you may want to look at:
We have written a lot about gender issues in museums on this blog, but the most obvious and also the most difficult is salary equity. Just in case anyone believes that in a field well on its way to being majority women that women are paid on a par with men, think again. This is a case where becoming a majority does not help unless everyone does something about equitable pay. And don’t get us started about how gender, race and sexual orientation influence salary equity. The gap just grows.
Don’t talk about how important it is to “diversify” your staff if you don’t address the salary equity question first. Whose problem is this? Everyone’s. Those of you receiving your graduate degrees this spring and looking for a first “real” job, and those of you who are board members, HR leaders, directors and staff members.
So what should you do? Well, not to sound too woo woo, but it depends where you are in the circle. If the ink is barely dry on your degree, make sure you have done your research as your job search narrows. Use AAM’s salary survey. If your grad program doesn’t own it and you’re not an AAM member, find someone who is. They can access the 2012 survey for you online or purchase the current survey (2014) for $60. Several of the regional museum service organizations have also issued salary surveys. Guidestar recently published its 2016 compensation report. With a $374 price tag, it’s beyond the reach of most individuals, but know that many nonprofit associations publish statewide statistics for the nonprofit sector. Use them. Find the job area you’re interested in and look at the salary range. Then use the MIT Living Wage Calculator to figure out how expensive it will be to live in a particular area. An acquaintance of mine is a finalist for an assistant director position at a big non-profit in Washington, D.C. It’s a chance to work with a mentor and she is one of three semi-finalists. She’s thrilled as she should be. Using the MIT Calculator, she will need to make $32,000 just to meet her expenses (fifty percent of which will go towards housing), and that list of expenses does not include school loans or lunches out or drinks after work or incidentally an apartment with a high charm quotient. If you are looking at jobs in less competitive markets, your living wage will be lower, but so will your expenses.
If you already have a job, but are looking for a new one, you will want all the same information; however, when you get to the interview stage, don’t provide your previous salary information. The relative wealth and culture of your previous employer and its failure to pay you adequately or not isn’t relevant when it comes to your job performance. (If you’re lucky enough to live or interview in Massachusetts, the new pay equity law which goes into effect in 2018 will prevent employers from asking about your previous salary.) And, if you are asked, all your research into cost of living will pay off when you turn the question around and tell the interviewer the salary range you are interested in. Whatever you do, don’t start to negotiate and than back down. There is only one sweet spot, and unless there are a dozen family and personal reasons to say yes, don’t. Your dream job won’t be your dream job if the only rent you can afford is a 40-minute commute away from work, so be prepared to say no thank you if you don’t get the offer you want.
What about women who suddenly discover they’re grossly underpaid? Say you run into the man who had your job before you and find out he was paid considerably more than you are. What do you do? Don’t rush into anyone’s office. Take a breath. Pull all your research together: for the working world, for the field, and for your organization. Ask for a meeting about your job performance. Presuming the results are positive, then reveal your discovery. If your board, CFO, director or HR person says no to a 20-percent raise in a year (assuming that’s the gap) see if you can get it guaranteed at 10-percent annually over two years. Remember, your base salary haunts you forever, prompting future raises, driving Social Security and retirement packages. If they say no absolutely, clearly it’s a red flag.
And what if you’re a board member, director, CFO or head of HR? We presume you believe in gender equity; and that you want to govern and or lead an equitable organization. What can you do? Figure out what the salary imbalance is across the staff, and how long it might take you to even things out. Create a values statement and a wage equity statement so gender equity becomes part of organizational policy. And let people know. Issue a press release, do a session at your regional service organization’s annual meeting. Taking a stand on these issues is rare. Heck, even acknowledging them is rare. How could it possibly hurt a museum, historic house or heritage organization if women knew it was committed to paying equitably? If the worst that might happen is that you are besieged with applications from bright, talented women (and men) who want to work for you, is that a problem? But we have huge capital problems and deferred maintenance you say? Maybe, but if your staff is unfocused and surreptitiously looking for work during the work day, they aren’t happy and you’re not getting your money’s worth. Get the best staff you can afford. What staff member does less for an organization after a salary bump, especially one tied to universal values?
Is your organization committed to a gender equitable pay scale? Write and tell us your story.
In May I attended the Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) annual meeting. In November, Anne and I, along with our friend Marieke Van Damme, go to the New England Museum Association’s (NEMA) annual meeting. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics if we could put everyone who works for a museum in one place, there would be 353,000 of us. If given a binary choice–46.7-percent of us–would identify as women. At meetings and conferences like CLHO, NEMA and huge events like AAM, there are a lot of women, and that visual makes many people believe our gender issues are solved. Done. Finished. There are so many women, what’s to complain about? We’ve arrived. Life is good.
We don’t believe that’s true, and before we say why, indulge us. We’re going to digress. Every week new readers find this blog. As its writers and designers, our focus is on what we’ve written most recently, but readers troll the archives looking for topic headings that interest them. Sometimes they comment. This week we received a comment from a women in response to the post “Can Museum Women Have It All?” It’s a heart breaker. If you’re inclined, you can scroll the 21 other comments for that post, some funny, some angry, some hoping for change. And if you’ve read it, you’re probably thinking, this woman’s problems are her own and don’t have anything to do with her job, whether it’s in museums or not. Yes. Sort of. Yet a field with notoriously poor salaries, especially for women, and more particularly, weak benefit packages, can leave anyone with family responsibilities (and I don’t just mean children) on the ropes.
Here’s what we believe about the gender question. A growth in population in a particular field doesn’t mean a problem is solved. Open doors don’t mean as much as we want them to–just think about museums and race. Fine to say we hire everyone, but oh, guess what? You need a graduate degree? How hard is that? Very, depending on your circumstances, and whether it’s intended to or not, it acts as a sifting mechanism.
But back to gender. A surfeit of women simply means more women in the late twentieth century invested in graduate school and found the museum field, but it doesn’t guarantee job equity, no siree. Think things are good where you work? Maybe they are. But ask yourself if your museum has the following:
- An organizational values statement.
- A board that has ever discussed any aspect of gender for any reason–organization, staff, exhibitions, board composition.
- An open salary scale, committed to avoiding bias and to equitable pay.
- Vacation and personal time off that allow staff to care for families and themselves when they are ill.
- Paid maternity and paternity leaves that allow parents to compete more equally in the job market.
- A private space for nursing mothers that’s not a bathroom stall.
- Flex time for staff.
After reading that list is the thought bubble over your head full of –but we have no money for paid leave, and my board would never discuss gender; it wouldn’t know how, and how can you have an open salary scale when your staff is tiny, and, and, and? Stop. Is it so radical to think about making museum human resources the center of a conversation? How might your workplace change if staff were less stressed about family and more focused on work? Think about the time lost when staff (or young directors) leave and the organization needs to re-group, re-hire, re-train. Grapple with the idea that your organization may require a master’s degree to apply, but pay less than a for-profit administrative job where a college degree isn’t required. Understand that your organization will never have a diverse staff if your job advertisements and subsequent job descriptions are best suited to someone with little graduate school debt and a well-off partner who provides benefits.
These are not problems you or your board will take care of in a day, a week or a month. But a willingness to acknowledge a problem and start down the path toward change will make the field better for everyone. Don’t wait for business to solve this problem. Let’s make museums the place that addressed the gender issue first and worked to solve it.
What are you doing to make museums better, more equitable ,workplaces?
Department on the Status of Women, City and County of San Francisco
For us, the last weeks of June mean scouring our manuscript for misplaced footnotes, erratic grammar, and broken links before sending it off to the publisher. Its title is Women|Museums: Lessons from the Workplace, and it’s a book about the working lives of women in museums. And it’s not surprising that in reviewing the text, it’s impossible not to reflect on women’s work lives in the museum field.
In thinking about our manuscript and our recent AAM presentation (What We Don’t Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Women), here are the three areas where I think change needs to happen in women’s work lives: wages; how women treat one another, and childcare. You don’t need to be an astrophysicist to realize those problems affect women no matter where they work. They do. But as we’ve said here before, museums are peculiar environments that often advocate big values up front, while back stage employees languish.
But pause for a moment. Are those the areas you would pick if you had to pick three? If not, tell us. Here’s why: As we explained at the close of our AAM presentation, we hope to create a caucus group under AAM’s tent that will advocate for all women in the museum field. (We should note that AAM has advocacy groups for diversity and LGBTQ, but not for women who make up 46.7 percent of the field’s employees.) On the other hand, a caucus without a cause is pretty sad, so if you’re behind us, let us know and please tell us what is on your mind.
So…in the spirit of equitable wages, I want to alert all of you who haven’t followed the Obama administration’s change in the overtime laws, that now might be the moment to focus, especially if you are a woman, and/or a female leader. To be fair, AAM has been at the forefront of this discussion, urging museums and heritage organizations to prepare for the change which arrives December 1, 2016. You can read what the department of labor has to say here: The New Overtime Law. You can also read AAM’s article here: Changes to Overtime Eligibility. Why bring this up now? Because it’s going to happen to everyone, no matter your opinion, and because it may involve many museum women in discussions about salary over the summer.
By the way, my understanding is that if you are currently an exempt employee, paid less than $47,476, which is the new threshold for workers needing overtime protection, your employer does not have to return you to hourly pay come December. It can choose to keep you as an exempt employee, but clock and pay you time and a half for any hours over 40/week. Since returning to non-exempt status may affect your benefit package, you may want to investigate this option, particularly if your hours are steady throughout the year with one or two predictable exceptions. Last, and perhaps most importantly, if you are called to individual or group meetings where this topic will be discussed, read about it before hand so you can ask informed questions, and see if you can take the opportunity to ask about salary equity. Are women and men in your organization paid at the same rate for similar tasks? Does your board have a value statement about gender equity that it shares with employees? And let us know how an Equity Caucus could help.
Finally, and more on this in the future, be supportive of your sister museum employees. Life will never change for working women until we realize how similar our problems are, and reach out to help one another. Need inspiration about how a positive, happy workplace helps us all? Visit Joyful Museums.
Greetings from the frozen Northeast where we woke up to minus-zero temperatures and brilliant sunshine. With more than 7,000 views in the last two weeks and 30 comments it seems an appropriate moment to respond to some of your thoughts.
More than a few of you wrote saying that despite what might be right or desirable, when it comes to salaries, a leader can’t get blood from a stone. True enough. And that works the opposite way too, which one reader pointed out: If you’re an applicant and the salary is set, it’s set. No amount of clever negotiating will garner you a better offer, but you can always ask. If you’re told that the salary is non-negotiable, ponder what else that tells you.
After reading all the comments, first, something for those doing the hiring: Unlike, the reader who suggested museums can’t invest in staff, we firmly believe they can. These are decisions that begin with the board, which starts the process when it invests in a leader. While leadership, vision, equity and creativity incubate around the board table, the board shares those characteristics with its director. In a perfect world they live in a symbiotic state passing energy, ideas and vision back and forth.
Boards make decisions all the time. They can decide to hire an inexperienced leader who will take a lesser salary and reap the reward when that person leaves frustrated and underpaid; they can hire that same leader and literally invest in her leadership training or, if they are able, they can commit to a bigger offer to attract a more experienced candidate. Yes, she may leave too, but if she was worth the investment, hopefully the organization will have grown along with her. And that is the goal, to move the institution forward not keep it treading water in a sea of mediocrity.
And boards can invest in salaries. Colleges, universities and schools do it. When was the last time you heard of a smaller museum raising money for an endowed position? How many museums list the amount they spend each year on professional development and staff travel on the “About Us” tab on their websites? Yes, money has to be put aside for these things, but museum leaders also have to believe they are important, and in the end, create a stronger, more able staff, hopefully, reducing turnover, which costs money, time, and brain power.
Here, we’d like to underscore that there is no one fix for the many salary-related problems. But, we agree with those of you who suggested that there are too many museum studies graduate programs, and no way for eager undergraduates to sift through the myriad choices to figure out which one is better.
We all own a piece of this pie. And if the top of the page was directed toward museum leadership, this half is for individuals. Sadly, there is no Consumer Reports to help you decipher a good museum studies program from a lame one, but you can ask a lot of questions. And if you’re already in the field, be careful. Listen to what one of our readers said, “My advice to anyone entering this field is to find a job that will let you develop skills, take ownership of projects, push initiatives. These are the skills and accomplishments that will make you stand out when you try to take the jump to the next level within your career.”
Your job shouldn’t make you feel like an indentured servant. Be strategic. If the salary stinks, but your Linkedin project list page continues to grow, you get to go to regional or national meetings every year or so, you’re encouraged to network, etc., maybe it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. And, we assume you are thinking about what you need in your next position. Hint: the answer is not necessarily the opposite of what you’ve got now.
So…to return to where we began: Wherever you are in the museum food chain–a white, male leader with a livable salary, a female leader earning less, an employee having trouble paying your graduate school loans–we urge you to own your part. If you’re a leader, be creative around the issue of salaries. Do you have a trustee who wouldn’t ever build a wing on your building but could endow a position? Are many of your staff parents? Would a trustee donate to a matching fund for daycare? Would your board create a professional development fund or take a lesser rent for a property she owns to be used by staff in return for a tax deduction? If your board says, “But that’s not what we do,” are you ready to respond, “Oh, but it is.” We hire good, talented staff because we believe they will get the job done. Helping create better salary/benefit packages tells staff they are valued. Valued staff respond with good work.
And if you’re not a valued staff person, take every opportunity to build your resume, strategize about what kind of museum job would be perfect for you, and make a plan to find it.
Keep writing to us.
Last week’s post on museum salaries left us breathless. In six days over 7,000 of you viewed the blog, breaking all sorts of Leadership Matters records. If we ever had any doubt about the fact that there are issues around salaries in the museum world, this was the confirmation. And just as we predicted there are some cranky, disaffected, and worried folks out there.
In our book Leadership Matters (AltaMira, 2013) and our upcoming book Women|Museums (Routledge, 2016), the manuscripts each end with an agenda. There, we list the changes that could be made by professional associations and service organizations, museums, graduate programs, and individuals to improve the issues surrounding leadership and gender (in Women|Museums) in MuseumLand. Here’s our Leadership Revolution Agenda.
Given the complexity of salaries, and the fact that short of a gazillion dollar gift to all of America’s 35,000+ museums, there is no single answer to the salary conundrum. So we taken a stab at what we think a Museum Salary Agenda for the 21st Century could look like — consider it a call to action that you can weigh in on.
What Professional Associations and Museum Service Organizations Can Do:
- Establish and promote national salary standards for museum positions requiring advanced degrees.
- Encourage museums to demonstrate the importance of human capital in their organizations.
- Make salary transparency part of the StEPS (AASLH) and accreditation process (AAM).
- Support organizations in understanding the need for endowment to support staff salaries. A building and a collection don’t guarantee a museum’s future. People do.
- Create a national working group for #Museumstaffmatters.
What Institutions Can Do:
- Encourage networking and individual staff development.
- Make every effort to provide salaries that exceed the Living Wage.
- Educate boards regarding the wastefulness of staff turnover.
- Make criteria for salary levels transparent.
- Examine the gaps among the director’s salary, the leadership team and the remaining staff.
- Offer equitable health and family leave benefits (and make them available on Day One of a new hire’s tenure).
What Individuals Can Do:
- Do your homework. Understand the community and region where you plan to work.
- Use the Living Wage index.
- Be prepared to negotiate. Be prepared to say no. A dream job isn’t a dream if your parents are still paying your car insurance and your mobile phone bills.
- Ask about the TOTAL package not just salary. If you are the trailing spouse and don’t need health insurance but do need time, make that part of your negotiations.
- Network. Know what’s going on in your field, locally, regionally, nationally.
What Graduate Programs Can Do:
- Be open about job placement statistics.
- Teach students to negotiate salaries and benefits.
- Teach students to calculate a Living Wage plus loan payments and quality of life.
- Encourage networking, mentoring and participation in the field.
It’s almost December and time for Leadership Matters to turn its lens on gender to highlight work we’re doing for Women|Museums scheduled for publication by Left Coast Press in 2016. First, an apology to our international readers: because data is so difficult to extract, our work is primarily focused on the U.S., and what little data there is in this blog post is U.S.-based. Second, the American museum world is not aggressive regarding workplace data collection, and that is never more obvious then when you try to trace personnel trends. Last, although perhaps this is true internationally as well, the world of American museum work is more honey comb than melting pot. Children’s museums have a different culture than living collections, and living collections than art, and so on, making it dangerous to compare apples to tangerines.
That said, what comes to mind when we say the words “female-dominated profession.” Nursing? Elementary School teachers? Social Workers? If those were your first thoughts, you are correct. Those are the top three female-dominated careers in the country. And what does that mean beyond the fact that if your child is in elementary school chances are good that both his teacher and the school nurse will be women? It matters because they are known as the “pink collar” professions. There are roughly 20 of them dominated by women.
Then there are the museum world’s sister professions–libraries and archives–where women have gained ground since 1950. Today 61 percent of all library directors are women, and women now outnumber men 3-1 in the archives field. But wait: Leadership Matters isn’t a fan of female dominated professions. Instead we’re raising the flag because if you believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for our own field, it is now about 45-percent women. We think we might be at the tipping point. And with more women finishing college than men, and more museum studies programs dominated by women, it is likely that in another decade or two, museums will join libraries and archives as pink collar professions.
As a field, we express concern about our lack of diversity. While this probably shouldn’t be a surprise when museums are by and large traditional, hierarchical organizations, where a graduate degree is the professional entrance fee, where the median salary is $45,000, and where the vast majority of jobs are in medium to small history museums outside an urban orbit, it is concerning. And Leadership Matters supports these concerns. We believe museum staffs should reflect their communities. So if you’re in a small New England city with a large immigrant population, perhaps your staff or volunteers should have faces that resemble the folks you serve. But that is a different question than gender which is rarely asked or talked about.
Are we comfortable becoming a female-dominated profession? Leadership Matters isn’t, at least not without a conversation or two, and we wish it were something AAM and AASLH would talk about. Why do we care? Economists and workplace psychologists warn that gender balanced workplaces are more efficient, more inventive, more productive. Second, research shows that men in female-dominated professions are paid more (yes, that again) and promoted more quickly, leaving their female colleagues behind. Last, female-dominated professions carry a social stigma. In plain English that sometimes means women are paid less because they are in women’s jobs, and women’s jobs are paid less because they are done by women. And to make matters worse, as late as 2011 a study done by Elsesser and Lever, shows us that 54-percent of their respondents said they didn’t care about the gender of their boss, yet 31-percent still preferred working for a man. What does this type of deep-seated behavior mean for our field?
What should the museum field do? In a word, talk. Let’s acknowledge what is happening and make changes to create a gender-balanced work force that reflects the many communities served. Let us know your thoughts.