New Report: Are US museums becoming more inclusive? New surveys of workers and trustees provide modest hope

From The Art Newspaper: "In the wake of a global pandemic and concurrent worldwide reckoning with institutional racism, two illuminating studies on the state of cultural heritage at large have just been released. The Mellon Foundation’s latest “Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey” and the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums’ “2022 Art Museum Trustee Survey” both itemise and quantify the experiences of art museum workers and board members, painting a picture of a sector slowly bouncing back from significant Covid-19 job losses with a renewed focus on diversity."

Slowly diversifying
While diversity has increased across the field overall, so far only 20% of the workforce at US museums is non-white. Still, the Mellon Foundation’s survey found that 40% of new hires and staff members under 35 are people of colour. The largest demographic increases have been in Latinx, Asian and multiracial populations; the number of Black staff has not increased in the aggregate, but the number of Black staff members in museum leadership positions has more than doubled since 2018. Employees of colour are more frequently relegated to “public-facing” roles; 20% of museum leadership and conservation staff are people of colour compared to the 47% of building and operations staff, for instance.

Directors prioritise DEAI
In their responses to the Mellon survey, museum directors reported that DEAI is now a central consideration at twice the rate they did in 2020. Directors at institutions with above-average staff diversity emphasised the importance of DEAI at a slightly higher percentage than those leading museums with below-average staff diversity.

Retention rates are still a problem
While museum directors have identified diversity, inclusion, and pay equity as priorities, the museum roles with the most diverse populations at museums are consistently those with the lowest retention rates, especially since most “public-facing'' museum roles are lower-paid, part-time and paid on an hourly (rather than salaried) basis.

A new generation of trustees
The Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums survey shines a light on the backgrounds and experiences of Black trustees in North American art institutions. Black trustees tend to be younger, more educated and less likely to benefit from intergenerational wealth than white board members. They are less likely to have family on art museum boards than their white counterparts, but a third have family members on other non-profit boards. Black art museum trustees, while they mostly report positive experiences in the boardroom, are more likely to report a “negative climate”.

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