New study examines the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships, particularly at large museums

The Association of Art Museum Directors, AAMD, and the National Center for Arts Research, NCAR, at Southern Methodist University have released findings from a research study designed to understand the gender gap in art museum directorships and to explore potential factors to help AAMD member institutions advance toward greater gender equality.

Through a combination of quantitative analysis and interviews, NCAR and AAMD researchers — led by Zannie Giraud Voss, director of SMU NCAR, and Christine Anagnos, executive director of AAMD — examined the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships.

The study, The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships, found that women hold fewer than 50 percent of directorships and that the average female director’s salary lags behind that of the average male director — with overall disparities driven by mostly the largest museums. Lead author was Ann Marie Gan, a student in the MA/MBA in Arts Management in SMU’s Cox School of Business and Meadows School of the Arts.

In 2013, AAMD conducted a survey of its members, with 211 responding, or 97 percent. The data collected included each institution’s operating budget, endowment, the director’s or top official’s salary and the director’s gender. Additional research was collected on each director’s tenure in his or her current position and on the position held prior to his or her current directorship. Previous position data was found for 193 of the 211 directors.

Study looked at current state of women in art museum directorships and factors driving any gender gap
The study sought to answer two main questions: What is the current state of women in art museum directorships? What are some factors that may drive the gender gap? The NCAR and AAMD study had several key findings:

— Out of the 211 directors included in the AAMD survey, 90 directors were female; women held 42.6 percent of art museum directorships.​

— On average, female directors earned $.79 cents for $1 that male directors earned. In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median pay of women nationwide is 82 percent of that of men.

— Segmented by operating budget, these gender disparities are concentrated in museums with a budget of over $15 million roughly the top quarter of museums. In this segment of museums, there are fewer female directors than male directors, and female directors earn less on average than their male counterparts — $.71 cents for $1 a male earns.

— At museums with budgets under $15 million, the number of female directors is nearly equal to the number of male directors, and, on average, the women earn slightly more — $1.02 for every $1 a male director earns.

Directors promoted internally suffer salary disadantage compared to peers hired from the outside
Other factors besides gender that may have influenced the salary and representation differentials noted above were examined through qualitative analysis and interviews with executive search consultants who work with art museums. The study found that a position a director held before entering his or her current position had an effect on average salary: if the person attained the position through internal promotion, he or she was at a salary disadvantage compared to peers hired from other institutions.

Directors who previously held a non-director job were also at a salary disadvantage when compared to their peers who had previously held the top position at another institution. These observations are true for both men and women, but the number of women who have become directors through internal promotion is greater, and these factors may have contributed in part to salary disparities.

A visual summary of the study can be found online at the National Center for Arts Research. In addition to Voss and Anagnos, co-authors of the study are Anne Marie Gan, SMU MA/MBA Class of 2015, and Alison D. Wade, Chief Administrator, Association of Art Museum Directors.

The Association of Art Museum Directors represents 236 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice.

The Meadows School of the Arts is one of the foremost U.S. arts education institutions. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. It shares with the Cox School of Business at SMU the dual-degree MA/MBA in arts management. For more information, visit

SMU’s Cox School of Business offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate business education programs. — SMU Meadows

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