Friday, October 6, 2017

One Way to Address the Museum "Pay Problem" (TODAY!)

Although many museums and not-for-profit organizations have underpaid (and it could be argued, undervalued) their staff for years, there has been a recent flurry of online articles bemoaning this fact --- including here on the ExhibiTricks blog, at AAM's Alliance Labs blog, and at the Nonprofit: AF blog.

"Why all this sudden interest?" you may ask.  "Nobody goes into museum or non-profit work for a big payday."

That's true, to an extent, but deliberately inadequate pay contributes to the museum world's lack of diversity, and, for organizations that like to place their high-minded social credentials front and center, it is just downright demeaning and unfair to hard-working staff not to pay them a living wage.

So what to do?  (Besides the usual rationalizing and hand-wringing and pearl-clutching so common in the non-profit world?)

HERE'S MY SIMPLE SUGGESTION: Refuse to publish help wanted ads from museums and other cultural institutions that do not list clear salary ranges in their job postings, or from those organizations that offer unpaid "internships."

That's it.

Personally, if I ran the circus, I would also not accredit such organizations or let their representatives present at professional conferences, but let's start with baby steps and something simple(r) to implement.

If you'd like the museum world to start cleaning up its classified ads, and by extension its pay problem, then I urge you to email and speak with the leaders of every museum organization you know.  I've listed a few organizations and their leaders (with links to their emails) below to get you started.

You could just write something like: "As a member concerned with fair pay and diversity in the museum field, I ask you to stop accepting job ads that do not list clear pay ranges or ads for unpaid internships."  (Feel free to cut-and-paste this text directly into your own email.)

I am disheartened that we are losing emerging and diverse members of the museum profession because of poor pay and bogus unpaid work situations.  So let's stop hiding and rationalizing and start doing something.  I've just sent emails to everyone listed below, won't you join me?


American Alliance of Museums (AAM):  Laura Lott

New England Museum Association (NEMA): Dan Yaeger

UPDATE: Hooray! ASTC, ACM, and AASLH all now require salary ranges on job postings!

But AAM and NEMA still do not, so contact Laura Lott and Dan Yeager and ask them to "catch up" to the rest of the museum world.

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