Museums as a Pink-Collar Profession

Perspectives, White Papers,

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) developed a white paper, “Museums as a Pink-Collar Profession: The Consequences and How to Address Them,” exploring the implications of gender equity in the museum workforce.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women comprised almost 50-percent of the museum workforce in 2018. But when we look at the overwhelming number of women in the graduate school pipeline and in museums’ junior ranks, GEMM anticipates the field could reach 70-percent female in a decade, thus becoming an official pink-collar profession. While the term ‘pink collar’ has little to do with education or training (after all, pink collar professions run the gamut from nursing and teaching to wait-staffing and housekeeping), it has everything to do with long-standing cultural definitions of what constitutes appropriate work for women and men. Across the board, female-dominated professions carry with them the economic and social burdens of “women’s work.” Consequently, society views them as “less-than.” 

The “respect gap,” as author Joanne Lipman calls it, is just one of many consequences to being a pink-collar profession. Widening gender gaps in pay and access to promotion are also associated with female-dominated fields. As the white paper points out, female-dominated fields are not exempt from issues with diversity and inclusiveness, parental leave, and sexual harassment.

Now is the time for the field to collectively understand and address these implications. The white paper offers a variety of actions museum leadership and museum workers can take to ensure more equitable workplaces as one way to attract and retain a creative and diverse workforce.

Read through this thought-provoking white paper, and let us know what you think!