Study finds gender gap in salaries of art museum directors

DALLAS – The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas has released findings from a research study (which can be found online on the NCAR website) designed to understand the gender gap in art museum directorships and to explore potential factors to help AAMD member institutions advance towards greater gender equality. Through a combination of quantitative analysis and interviews, NCAR and AAMD researchers – led by Zannie Giraud Voss, Director, SMU NCAR, and Christine Anagnos, Executive Director, AAMD – examined the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships. They found that women hold fewer than 50% 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.

In 2013, AAMD conducted a survey of its members, and the data collected from 211 of its members (a 97% response rate) 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 (with previous position data found for 193 of the 211 directors). 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% 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% 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).

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 authors gratefully acknowledge Lisa Phillips, AAMD Trustee and Chair of the Association’s Professional Issues Committee, for spearheading this project.

About AAMD

The Association of Art Museum Directors – representing 236 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico – 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. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at

About NCAR

In 2012, the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University launched the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). The Center, the first of its kind in the nation, analyzes the largest database of arts research ever assembled, investigates important issues in arts management and patronage, and makes its findings available to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers and the general public. The vision of NCAR is to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community.

With data from the Cultural Data Project (CDP) and other national and government sources such as the Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau and the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the National Center for Arts Research is creating the most complete picture of the health of the arts sector in the U.S. The goal of the Center is to become the nation’s leading source of expertise on: 1) arts attendance and patronage, 2) understanding how managerial decisions, arts attendance and patronage affect one another, 3) the impact of the arts on communities across the U.S., and 4) the fiscal trends and fiscal stability of the arts in the U.S., and create an in-depth assessment of the industry that allows arts and cultural leaders to make more informed decisions and improve the health of their organizations.

The project’s indices and dashboard were created in partnership with IBM, TRG Arts and Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). The Center also partnered with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to develop its mission, vision and long-term strategies.

NCAR is led by Dr. Zannie Voss, chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in the Meadows School of the Arts and SMU Cox School of Business, and Dr. Glenn Voss, Endowed Professor of Marketing at Cox School of Business. Through this leadership, NCAR sources its cross-disciplinary academic expertise in the fields of arts management, marketing, statistics and econometrics from Meadows and Cox faculty.

More than a dozen visionary foundations and individual arts patrons have supported NCAR with financial investments, including the Communities Foundation of Texas, M. R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation, Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, Jennifer and Peter Altabef, Marilyn Augur, Molly Byrne, Bess and Ted Enloe, Melissa and Trevor Fetter, Carol and Don Glendenning, Jeanne R. Johnson, Nancy Nasher, Nancy Perot, Bonnie Pitman, Caren Prothro and Donna Wilhelm.

For more information or to view the National Center for Arts Research’s inaugural report, please visit the NCAR website at

About the Meadows School of the Arts

The Meadows School of the Arts, formally established in 1969 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. The Meadows School 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. The goal of the Meadows School of the Arts, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. The Meadows School is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, challenging its students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship and social change. The Meadows School of the Arts is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research. It shares with the Cox School of Business at SMU the dual-degree MA/MBA in arts management. For more information,

About the Cox School of Business

SMU’s Cox School of Business, originally established in 1920 and named in honor of benefactor Edwin L. Cox in 1978, offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate business education programs. Among them: BBA, Full-Time MBA, Professional MBA (PMBA), Executive MBA (EMBA), Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Entrepreneurship, Master of Science in Finance, Master of Science in Management, Master of Science in Sport Management, and Executive Education. The school also offers a number of unique resources and activities for students, ranging from its Business Leadership Center (BLC), Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, Maguire Energy Institute, and Global Leadership Program to its Associate Board Executive Mentoring Program and an international alumni network with chapters in more than 20 countries.

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