Follow-up to“Gender and Leadership in Museums Today: Gender Equity in the Conservation Field,”An AIC ECPN and E&IC Webinar with Joan Baldwin and Anne Ackerson

By Jen Munch posted 04-30-2019 17:27


This webinar took place on April 24, 2019 and featured presenters Anne W. Ackerson and Joan Baldwin of Leadership Matters and the Gender Equity in Museums Movement. Please see the previous post announcing the webinar for more extensive biographies of the speakers, and visit AIC’s YouTube Channel for the full recording of the webinar.

Several questions from viewers could not be answered during the webinar due to time constraints; however, Joan and Anne have generously answered some of them here. We have also included a list of resources at the end of this blog post.


Q: How do you think someone in private practice can utilize leadership skills to better advocate for themselves/equal pay?

A:  In our book, Leadership Matters, we identify four leadership attributes: self-awareness, authenticity, courage, and vision.  These same characteristics apply to private practice. If you’re self-aware, you know and are able to articulate your value. To embrace authentic leadership, you must be honest about what you need/want to make annually and do the math to determine your daily/project fees. Ask if you’ve priced yourself out of the market or not? Are you courageous in pointing out to a prospective client when their RFP is unrealistic in scope, time, money? Do you offer alternatives to an unrealistic RFP that could keep you in the running for the job? Do you envision making opportunities happen (for example, once on a project, do you see opportunities for additional work?) and will you work with clients to help find the funding to keep you working with them? Do you allocate money to attend regional and national meetings in your annual budget with the express purpose of networking?

Q: Conservation departments can be isolated within museums and are often very removed from higher ups and decision making. How can we encourage inter-departmental cooperation and make our voices heard with museum leadership?  

A: Make sure you participate in the museum workplace even if it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with conservation. Even though this may be uncomfortable to do, make yourself/your department visible. Volunteer for cross-departmental/institution assignments (serve on the institution's strategic planning team, for example). Make friends and allies with the curatorial department and the educators (those are natural allies); also think about collaborating with the development department or visitor services. Explore partnerships, projects, and programs with them. Cultivate champions to advance the department's visibility. Take initiative. Use some of John Kotter's 8-step change process.

Q: How can assistant conservators, young conservators, interns, and new hires address the larger systemic issues such as hierarchical vs. lateral leadership within their institution?

A: Start from where you are. Remember this is a long game. If you have the choice, don't work for institutions where their values and yours don't align. (Check out GEMM’s “5 Things You Need to Know About Workplace Culture.”) Again, know your allies. There’s an assumption that people in leadership know everything that’s going on in their organization. They may not. Participate. See the preceding question.

Q: What do we do when our director/CEO/boss is unresponsive to concerns over equity?  

A: This isn’t just a problem for the leadership to fix. Figure out, if you can, what can make the most effective argument with your boss. Is this a person who listens to cold, hard data or is swayed by a riveting story? (You’ll find the book, Switch, by Dan and Chip Heath to be really helpful when thinking about what small steps can make big differences.)

Take John Kotter’s advice (see above) and find your champions -- these are people who your boss respects and who can speak on behalf of your concerns. Keep pressing the case -- try your best to consistently raise the issues, even subtly. Support your colleagues by listening: Kleenex in the bathroom, a comfortable chair in your office. Speak up when you witness a colleague belittled, harassed or talked over. When you need to approach a leader do it as a group of two or three.

Q: How do we address gender equity issues that occur in different levels- especially considering many men are in leadership roles and this plays into negotiation?

A: Understanding gender equity issues at different levels within an institution first requires self-awareness on your part. That knowledge will help you determine which tools and approaches you will need to educate, advocate, or confront.

Know the difference between things that bother you and are likely inequitable and things that are illegal. Don’t mess around with the latter. If you are sexually harassed, cyber bullied or anything else proscribed against in your HR policy, and HR won’t help, seek help outside the office.

Regarding negotiation, the classic scenario usually involves a female direct report negotiating with her male boss. But know that female bosses can be just as blind to equity issues. As we noted above, you need to understand what type of argument will be most effective -- will you be successful overwhelming them with evidence or an effective, emotionally-charged story or some combination of the two? A champion may be helpful, also. Check out these two “5 Things You Need to Know” tipsheets from GEMM: Asking for a Raise and Salary Negotiations.

We talk a lot about mentors, but there’s another person to consider cultivating -- a sponsor. Sponsors are people within your organization who see your potential and are willing to work on your behalf to help advance your career there. They’re the folks who suggest you for stretch assignments, advocate for salary or benefits increases, and keep their eyes peeled for promotions or new jobs.

Q:  As being a female-dominated profession is often perceived “unhealthy,” how can/should we work towards gender diversity?

A:  We think it makes sense to work with your professional association, the AIC/FAIC, and your graduate programs to explore how to attract more gender diversity into the conservation field. Maybe AIC and some of the graduate programs should look for a funder to offer scholarships for minority men of color? That would start to change things. Work with your graduate programs and professional associations to identify ways to introduce conservation/museum careers to young people. Reach out to middle school and high school science programs, hold career days and behind the scenes days at the museum or in your studio.

Q: How do those who evaluate applications for graduate programs or those who are hiring early-career professionals balance sometimes conflicting needs for gender diversity and gender equity?  

A: We see no conflict between gender equity and gender diversity. Equity works for all, regardless of demographics.

Q: Conservation can be a highly competitive profession. How do we balance the desire for a job
- any job - with the desire for acceptable pay?

  •      Why should I negotiate when I know most institutions don’t have a lot of money?

A: That's not yours to worry about. Don't give a potential employer a pass on the money. Most men wouldn’t. If job applicants don’t consistently ask for more money, they enable museums to believe they’re paying fair wages. They are not. Do your due diligence. Know what the median salary is for your position in your city. Know down to the penny what your own needs are. Be prepared to walk away if you don’t get enough. If you can’t walk away, ask if you can revisit salary in 6 months or a year.

  •      How do I negotiate a fellowship or contract position that has a set amount of money?

A: We suppose you could try to negotiate some benefits; housing or commuting costs, for example. You may not be able to, but if you can show them what it costs to live in that city, town, region, you may at least convince them that their fellowship is ridiculous. Also, look for comparable data to make a case for more funding.

Thank you very much to Joan and Anne
for their presentation and for answering these additional questions. Thank you as well to everyone who worked together to make this webinar possible, including Nora Frankel, Molly Gleeson, Anisha Gupta, Debbie Hess Norris, Katelin Lee, and all of the officers of ECPN and the E&IC.  

This webinar was the first of a series of educational programs supported by the Department of Art Conservation, University of Delaware, in honor of Bruno Pouliot. ECPN is grateful to the University of Delaware for this opportunity to celebrate Bruno's legacy as a mentor and educator and to commemorate his passion for the conservation profession. Please see this announcement for more information.

Here are links to the resources recommended during the webinar by speakers Joan Baldwin and Anne W. Ackerson:

Here are additional resources recommended by AIC’s ECPN and E&IC: