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The Ongoing Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships

September 27, 201727 September 2017

Indigenous arts / Diversity and equity in the arts / Economic impact

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This report, based on a survey of 210 American art museums in 2016 that followed up on issues uncovered in a similar survey in 2013, finds that a “gender gap persists” in art museums, despite “incremental gains in some areas of pay and employment representation”.

Of the 210 responses from art museum directors in 2016, 100 were female (48%). While women direct most of the museums with budgets below $15 million (54%), female directors represent one-third or less of all museum directors in larger institutions.

There is also a substantial difference in the types of art museums run by women, with college or university museums having the highest proportion of female directors (60%), followed by culturally-specific museums (57%), contemporary museums (46%), encyclopedic museums (41%), and single-artist museums (33%).

The report notes that, “on average, female directors earned 73 cents for every dollar that male directors earned”. In other words, there is a 27% gap in pay between female and male directors. The two types of art museums with majority female representation have the lowest pay gaps: 9% in culturally-specific museums and 15% in college or university museums. The pay gaps are higher in contemporary (18%), single-artist (22%), and encyclopedic (31%) museums. (Encyclopedic art museums have the largest average operating budgets and represent 49% of all museums responding to the survey.)

As a percentage of museum operating budgets, female directors earn less than their male counterparts in seven of ten operating budget categories. In addition, there are no female directors in the four art museums with operating budgets of $100 million or more.

In the 181 museums reporting in both 2013 and 2016, the overall proportion of female directors increased from 43% to 48%, but the pay gap remained similar (22% in 2013 and 23% in 2016).

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