I’ve promised you a post about Marvel movie women, and it’s coming! But first, an aside in regard to women not from comic books: Women in my chosen nonprofit area, the museum field.
One of my classes this semester is about museum administration. It sounds boring, it’s not, but either way bear with me for a moment! I’d like to talk about the large number of women working in museums. Feel free to skim the numbers, major points are in bold.
There are a surprising number of books about museum administration, and we’re churning through a pile of them. The first we’ve finished entirely is Leadership Matters by Ackerson and Baldwin. I’d like to draw your attention to a study cited in the introduction, the American Alliance of Museums’ 2012 National Comparative Museum Salary Study, which covered four of the AAM’s six regions. The survey showed that women largely outnumber men in full-time museum positions, and somewhat outnumber them in CEO and VP positions. Two-thirds of museum professionals in the sample were women.
However, 82% of the museums surveyed had operating budgets under $3 million. Why is that significant? The book goes on to quote a passage from this 2013 article by Laura Otten:
… there is an inverse relationship between the percentages of women in CEO positions at these nonprofits the larger the organizational budget gets. (Only 21% of women in nonprofits with budgets over $25 million are women.) In organizations with budgets between $1 million and $7 million, the majority (52%) of the CEOs are women; and in those organizations with budgets under $1 million, 64% of the CEOs are women.
There are waaaay more women in small, local museums. The bigger and more professionalized the museum, the fewer female paid staff and CEOs.
But wait, there’s more. Back to the AAM salary survey… Women in the field make about $0.78 to a man’s dollar, roughly the same as the last national average I saw. Beyond just women’s pay, though, the book says according to (uncited) “researchers and pundits” the predominance of women in the field is probably why the field is underfunded and disrespected.
The rest of the book consists of interviews with prominent or efficacious museum-field leaders. One director, Melissa Chiu, notes that many baby-boomer senior officers are now leaving the field, and their places are being taken by higher percentages of women, presumably leveling those numbers out somewhat. But to her, this is a subtle indication that “job value is diminished” in the museum field, that women are only starting to hold these positions because those titles are seen as less valuable than before.
Two separate allegations. One, that the museum field is neglected because it’s mostly women. Two, that the museum field has declined in respect, and because of that, women can get high-level jobs more easily than before.
Whether either of these statements is really true, I don’t know, but they say something about how women are seen. How they’re condescended to and boxed in by the ever-present cultural belief that women’s work is less valuable.
I don’t have a lot of information yet, just a few references in a book and an article, but this situation bears watching. I am irritated.