As the DEAI page introduces, diversity in a museum’s board and staff is vital to ensuring that your museum is working toward reparative justice. Essential to diversity is inclusion of people of all genders and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Inclusion must go beyond simply hiring LGBTQIA+ people and people of diverse genders. In fact, women are overrepresented as employees in museums – the Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2020 that women are 63.6% of curators, archivists, and museum technicians. However, studies by the Washington Post and others have shown that women in museums are still unequally compensated and are underrepresented in leadership positions at larger museums. Transparency is one key way museum leadership and staff can work to close wage gaps and fight the gender bias that has contributed to museum salaries being low compared to other sectors that expect the same levels of education.
Gender cannot be analyzed in a bubble – recognizing the intersectionality of identities shows that the wage gap is even starker for women of color, and that the field’s current state of low salaries combined with demands for upper-level education and unpaid experience creates more barriers for women from economically marginalized racial and ethnic communities. Though understudied, it is evident that a wage gap for LGBTQIA+ individuals exists, too.
Museums should make efforts to value the work of employees equally and to resolve the wage gap. Some steps museum leadership can take are outlined in Gender Equity in Museums’ Five Things to Lift Women in the Workplace:
- Ask yourself, who are your institution’s hidden figures? Look around you—there are women in your institution who are making important, thoughtful contributions to your work everyday. These are colleagues who deserve recognition and support. Raise them up!
- Learn more about wage gaps and wage disparity and be aware of how those practices might exist in your museum.
- Move to a blind hiring practice where you are unaware of a potential employee’s gender when reviewing applications.
- Develop a system where women can succeed in your museum.
- Review your exhibits to see how many female artists you feature.
These steps approach gender equity from a binary perspective, but museums should apply these steps to LGBTQIA+ people as well.
Gender equity in the workplace is also still hindered by gender discrimination and sexual harassment on a day-to-day basis–both by colleagues and visitors. Museum leadership must ensure that women, trans and non-binary people, and LGBTQIA+ people are supported in the workplace and receive the same respect and opportunities that their binary gender heterosexual counterparts do.
The National Council of Public History has developed an extensive list of resources that museums can reference to learn about how sexual harrassment and gender discrimination occurs in the workplace, as well as resources that assist museums in developing plans and policies for combatting such discrimination and protecting their staff.
The Welcoming Guidelines for Museums by the LGBTQ Alliance of AAM is another important resource. It provides museums with advice and self-assessment checklists to ensure that they are providing a welcoming environment to LGBTQIA+ employees, partners, and visitors. It spans functional areas from human resources to curatorial to guest experience, and uses AAM’s Standards of Excellence as a jumping off point from which to generate its guidelines.
The LGBTQ Alliance of the Alliance of American Museums developed an Institutional Guide to Gender Transition and Transgender Inclusion in the Museum Field. This guide provides strong examples of how transitioning museum staff members, their colleagues, and the leadership at their museum can be proactive in making the museum a safe and supportive environment for the transitioning individual.