Entertainment & Arts

Women dominate art museum staffs, but minorities are much smaller part, study says


Elastic Tango 2010 Nine-channel video installation (color, sound) on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in March. MOCA participated in the study about the diversity of art museum staffs.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Women account for a clear majority of art museum staffs in the United States, comprising approximately 60% of positions, according to a recent museum demographic survey released by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

But non-whites accounted for just 28% of positions. When broken down by job type, ethnic minorities dominated only in the fields of janitorial and security services at museums.

The survey -- which is a partnership between the Mellon Foundation, the Assn. of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums -- is thought to be the first of its kind to measure diversity in art museums around the U.S.

Responses came from 181 art museums, the study says. The Mellon Foundation brought onboard Ithaka S+R, a consulting firm, to assist in conducting the survey.


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The foundation’s report found a “preponderance” of women in curatorial, conservation and education roles that can be a “pipeline toward leadership positions.” By contrast, the survey found “no such pipeline toward leadership among staff from historically underrepresented minorities.”

Among museum curators, conservators, educators and leaders -- which are generally the highest paid positions in a museum -- 4% are African American and 3% Latino, while Asians account for 6%. White individuals account for 84% of these high-level jobs.

The female majority gets even stronger among these top-tier positions. The study states that women account for about 70% or more of these coveted jobs. In addition, museum employees “appear to be growing comparatively more female,” with younger women outpacing men in the same age group.


The Mellon Foundation, which is based in New York, said the study was undertaken to “replace anecdotal evidence with hard data,” and that it “intends to conduct follow-up diversity studies of the museum field at periodic intervals to help assess progress.”

A separate study published by the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this year suggests that the demographics of museum staffs is somewhat reflective of visitors.

The study showed that in 2012, about 57% of people who visited art museums or art galleries were women, and that the ethnic group most likely to visit an art museum or gallery was non-Latino white.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT


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