Museum Staff, Leadership Becoming More Diverse, Survey Finds

Museum Staff, Leadership Becoming More Diverse, Survey Finds

The staff and leadership of museums across the United States have become more diverse since 2015, a report commissioned by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation finds.

Conducted by Ithaka S+R, in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey 2018 (14 pages, PDF) found that, in 2018, 28 percent of staff at museums participating in the survey were people of color, up from 24 percent in the foundation's 2015 survey. Among all respondents to the 2018 survey, the share of people of color among new hires rose steadily, from 26 percent in 2015, to 29 percent in 2016, to 30 percent in 2017, to 35 percent in 2018. But while the percentage of people of color across curatorial, education, conservation, and leadership roles such as director, CFO, and CEO increased from 15 percent to 20 percent among respondents to both surveys, only education and curatorial departments grew more racially/ethnically diverse, with the percentage of curators who are African American doubling from 2 percent in 2015 to 4 percent in 2018. 

In terms of gender diversity, the survey found that the share of women among museum staff rose slightly, from 59 percent to 61 percent, while that of women in leadership positions increased from 57 percent to 62 percent. Women also hold a majority of curatorial (73 percent, up from 68 percent), conservation (75 percent, up from 71 percent), and education (79 percent, unchanged) positions, all of which can lead to a leadership role.

"This second demographic survey of art museums offers a snapshot of change that is overdue, slow, but also real and welcome," said Mellon Foundation executive vice president Mariët Westermann. "These results show that diverse hiring is entirely possible and needed and encourage all of us to do more to realize that potential. The Mellon Foundation looks forward to continuing to work with our many partners across the field on the great task of making American art museums representative and inclusive of the rich diversity of our country."

"Enhancing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) in museums is a key strategic priority for the entire field," said AAM president and CEO Laura Lott. "We are encouraged by this progress, but we know museum leaders can and must do more. In partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, AAMD, and others, we will continue to sharpen our focus on equipping museum leaders with tools and resources to advance DEAI in museums, driving long-lasting, systemic culture change, and building leadership teams that more accurately reflect the communities they serve."

"Latest Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey Shows Increases in African American Curators and Women in Leadership Roles." Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Press Release 01/28/2019. "Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey 2018." Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Report 01/28/2019.