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Being a fan of the Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, I have been influenced by lines from his “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” (1983) that go “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight; Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”

I believe gender pay equity in museums—an issue originally placed before the American Association of Museums by the Women’s Caucus nearly forty-five (45!) years ago (Baldwin et al. 2016)—is worth having. Therefore, I am again proposing here that concerned museum workers start kicking at the darkness of gender pay inequity in our field by taking some political action at the next annual general meetings of our respective regional & national professional museum organisations.

This particular blog post has been on my agenda for some time. The immediate stimulus for this post today is the 15 October Leadership Matters blog post “Museum Women: Why Are We Tolerating This?” (Baldwin 2018).  It is well worth your consideration.

For background, please refer to my previous related blog posts on 18 January, 22 & 26 March, 18 & 20 June 2018.

Figure 1. Comparison of female & male art museum directors’ average salaries (Treviño et al. 2016: 9)

My aims here are to: 1) raise interest concerning the gender pay inequity issue in the museum field across North America to create some momentum in regional & national professional museum organisations, 2) attract museum organisation members to move & second motions with purpose(s) similar to the following draft resolution, & 3) to encourage relevant input into massaging the wording to fit the specific regional or national organisation circumstances.  Concerned members need to take action to deliberately & strongly influence our professional museum oganisations to take this matter seriously because–to date–I have been unable to raise any interest in taking political action necessary to address the gender pay gap in museums.

I believe strongly that silence on the gender pay gap issue gives our consent to the discriminatory injustice of paying women less than men doing the same jobs in museums—to say nothing about the illegality of this practice in Canadian federal and Ontario’s jurisdictions [& I suspect in many others].

This gender pay inequity problem has been evidence-based for many years now.

Be advised: This problem can never be solved by doing nothing about it!

Surely it is time!

As Baldwin (2018) challenges us, “why are we tolerating this?” [emphasis added].

[Note: I am adding the following indented statement on 24 October 2018 because I see that my comments added to this post subsequent to its publication do not automatically show up at the end of my text. Readers must click on the Comments link at the top of the post to view comments.]

In 1936, my grandmother wrote to my mother (who was 11 at the time) on page 1 of Mum’s autograph book as follows: “Stand straight / walk firmly / throw your weight / . . .” I place an exclamation point on this advice to all girls & women in 2018!

Please consider & comment on the following resolution. Work-shopping to meet particular museum organisation circumstance is my preferred option here. I recommend that museum organisation members step forward to second and/or to move this—or a similar—motion at the next organisation AGM.  The following is specifically geared to Canadian museum organisations, but there are American references cited in my previous blog posts.

[Note that American nonprofit organisations in our field tend to prevent their members from taking action to direct the organisation, so my previous blog posts recommend that constitutional change is the sine qua non of persuading these museum & related organisations to take any action on the gender pay equity issue–or any other matter(s) of concern to members.]

DRAFT Resolution Re Gender Pay Equity Action

WHEREAS: solid evidence abounds from Statistics Canada and elsewhere that women employees across job categories in all sectors earn only $0.87 for every dollar earned by men doing the same work (Moyser 2017; Cornish 2016: 6, 16 passim; cf. United Nations Human Rights Committee 2015);

AND WHEREAS: it has been well-documented for many years that women employees in museums experience similar gender discriminatory pay levels that range from $0.69 to an average $0.77 (Treviño et al. 2016: 9, 10) for every dollar earned by men doing the same jobs (cf. American Alliance of Museums 2017; Baldwin et al. 2016);


this annual general meeting of the [INSERT ORGANISATION NAME HERE] direct the Board to proceed expeditiously to consult interested [INSERT ORGANISATION NAME HERE] members, the literature, and to report to the next AGM on the ways and means for museums to implement equal pay for equal work in our museums—to take first steps toward this goal as legally obligated under [INSERT NAME OF JURISDICTION & APPROPRIATE LAW HERE e.g. (Ontario 2017)].


the [INSERT ORGANISATION NAME HERE] take a leadership role at the earliest possible date to raise this extremely important ethical & legal issue with members of the Provincial/Territorial Museums Associations group and the Canadian Museums Association so as to initiate concerted action across Canada.

See Endnote[1]

References Cited:

American Alliance of Museums. 2017. “News Release: American Alliance of Museums Partners with 11 Regional and State Museum Associations to Produce 2017 Salary Survey: Comprehensive Study Analyzes 52 Museum Positions on National, Local Levels,” 20 June. Washington: American Alliance of Museums https://www.aam-us.org/2017/06/20/american-alliance-of-museums-partners-with-11-regional-and-state-museum-associations-to-produce-2017-salary-survey/  (accessed 9 July 2018).

Baldwin, Joan H. 2018. “Museum Women: Why Are We Tolerating This?” Leadership Matters blog posted 15 October 2018 https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/museum-women-why-are-we-tolerating-this/ (accessed 16 October 2018).

Baldwin, Joan H. et al. 2016. “A Call for Gender Equality in the Museum Workplace.” Gender Equality in Museums Movement https://www.genderequitymuseums.com/call-to-action (accessed 11 July 2018).

Cornish, Mary. 2016. Every Step You Take: Ontario’s Gender Pay Gap Ladder. Toronto: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ontario Office. https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/every-step-you-take (accessed 10 July 2018).

Moyser, Melissa. 2016. Women and Paid Work. Ottawa: Statistics Canada https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14694-eng.htm (accessed 10 July 2018).

Ontario. 2017. Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. https://www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act-0/equal-pay-equal-work (accessed 10 July 2018).

Charles Riley. 2018.  “BBC fails to convince female staff with pay review.” CNNmedia posted January 30, 2018 https://money.cnn.com/2018/01/30/media/bbc-women-equal-pay/index.html (accessed 10 July 2018).

Thistle, Paul C. 2016. “World Day for Decent Work, 7 October: Is There a “Decent Work” Deficit in Museums?” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog, posted 7 October at https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/world-day-for-decent-work-7-october-is-there-a-decent-work-deficit-in-museums/ (accessed 10 July 2018).

Treviño, Veronica; Voss, Zannie Giraud; Anagnos, Christine; & Wade, Allison D. 2016. The Ongoing Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships. New York: Association of Art Museum Directors. https://staging.aamd.org/sites/default/files/document/The%20Gender%20Gap%20in%20Art%20Museum%20Directorships_0.pdf (accessed 9 July 2018).

United Nations Human Rights Committee. 2015. “Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Canada” http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPPRiCAqhKb7yhskswUHe1nBHTSwwEsgdxQHJBoKwgsS0jmHCTV%2fFsa7OKzz9yna94OOqLeAavwpMzCD5oTanJ2C2rbU%2f0kxdos%2bXCyn4OFm3xDYg3CouE4uXS (accessed 5 July 2018).


[1] One approach into which the British Broadcasting Corporation was forced due to recent detection that some of its male presenters were being paid 50% more than their female counterparts (coexisting with less severely unequal pay levels for women in all positions across the corporation) is that male pay levels are reduced to match those of their female counterparts (Riley 2018). Such an approach of course could be used to help museums save money on wages—but only through further egregious exploitation of their workers (see Thistle 2016)!