Women run just a quarter of the biggest art museums in the United States and Canada, and they earn about a third less than their male counterparts, according to a report released on Friday by the Association of Art Museum Directors, a professional organization. The New York Times reports that “The group examined salary data on the
217 members it had last year through the prism of gender, for the first time. The report noted strides made by women at small and midsize museums, with budgets under $15 million, often university or contemporary-art institutions. Here, women have basically achieved parity, holding nearly half of the directorships and earning just about the same as men. But the gap is glaring at big institutions, those with budgets over $15 million: Only 24 percent are led by women, and they make 29 percent less than their male peers.
“And just five of the 33 most prominent art museums — those with budgets greater than $20 million — have women at the helm. “There is a difference if a woman is running one of these big museums,” said Elizabeth Easton, director of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, a training program in New York that has helped place nine women in directorships, but none at the country’s most influential museums. “Those directors are the most loud and authoritative voices. It sets the tone.”
She added: “Everyone just claps their hands and says that it’s getting better. But with boards full of men and search committees gravitating to men, it’s not going to get better.” Christine Anagnos, director of the association and one of four authors of the report, pointed to a trend of high-profile appointments of men at major museums, replacing female directors, including in Philadelphia, Dallas and Newark. That trend could change, with the Cleveland Museum of Art searching for a new director; with the announcement last week by Malcolm Rogers that he was retiring from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as soon as a successor is found; and with the directors of the National Gallery in Washington and the Brooklyn Museum being over 65. But experts debate not only whether women will get those plum jobs, but also whether they will pursue them. “Is it that women are not being offered those jobs, or they’re choosing not to take those jobs?” asked Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum in New York, who initiated the idea for the study. Written in partnership with the National Center for Arts Research, the report, called “The Gender Gap in Museum Directorships,” explores the factors contributing to the gulf at the top and frames the findings within the debate provoked by Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”in The Atlantic.