From the Field

Gender Gap Report 2017

March 22, 2017

Read the Report: The Ongoing Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships

In a 2014 report, AAMD and the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) found that a gender gap existed in art museum directorships. We found that women held less than half of directorships, that the average female director’s salary lagged behind that of the average male director, and that these phenomena were most persistent in the largest museums. Three years later, despite press attention and field-wide dialogue on the topic, the gender gap persists, although trends showing incremental gains in some areas of pay and employment representation deserve recognition.

Our updated study sought to answer three main questions: What is the current state of women in art museum directorships? How has the gender gap in art museum directorships shifted in the past three years? What are some factors that may drive the gender gap?

The NCAR and AAMD study had several key findings:

  • While men continue to outnumber women in director roles, there has been a 5% increase in female directorships from 2013: out of the 210 directors included in the AAMD survey, 100 directors were female, with women representing 48% of art museum directorships in 2016 (compared to 43% in 2013).


  • There are clear disparities in gender representation depending on operating budget size: the majority of museums with budgets less than $15 million are run by a female rather than a male director. The reverse is true for museums with budgets of over $15 million, where female representation decreases as budget size increases.


  • In both cohorts, women are at a salary disadvantage: on average, female directors earned 73 cents for every dollar that male directors earned – a seven cent decrease from 2013.


  • When segmented by operating budget, the gender disparities are more nuanced:
  • For museums with a budget of over $15 million – roughly the top quarter of museums –female directors earned 75 cents for every dollar a male earns, an improvement from 2013, when women earned only 70 cents per dollar earned by a man;
  • For the other three quarters of member museums (those with budgets less than $15 million), female directors on average earned 98 cents to every dollar. This represents a reversal  from three years ago when female directors at these same museums earned an average of $1.01 earned by their male counterparts.


  • Women hold the majority of directorships in College/University museums (60%) and Culturally Specific museums (57%). Men hold the majority of directorships at Single Artist (67%), Encyclopedic (59%) and Contemporary (54%) museums.


  • Museum types, which are also tied to budget size, also help reveal salary dynamics at play: some museum types with higher average budget have less of a salary gap as compared to some museums with lower average budget size. The biggest pay disparity is at Encyclopedic museums, where female directors average only 69 cents for every $1 of their male counterparts, while the smallest gap is at Culturally Specific institutions, where women earn 91 cents for every $1 a male director earns.

Drawing from interviews with executive search consultants and female museum directors, the report also includes a qualitative analysis that examines the personal as well as the institutional barriers in achieving gender equality in the field. Overall, interviewees observed that while progress is incremental, the needle is moving, with changes accomplished through cultural shifts within the field and in broader society, and with the emergence of a new generation of leaders.