Beginning November 15, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) will require museums to disclose salaries for positions they post on its job board. AAM’s announcement comes alongside heightened calls for salary transparency in the museum world and as salary transparency laws have taken effect across the country. In New York City, all employers will need to disclose salaries beginning November 1.
“With this advanced notice, we urge museums to begin making the policy reviews and changes, benchmarking, and compensation studies required to holistically implement these important practices,” AAM said in a statement posted on its job board.
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AAM’s job board lists over 200 openings at institutions across the country, ranging from small house museums to the art world’s biggest names. “We know that salary transparency practices can’t thoughtfully take place overnight or in isolation,” the AAM caveated. “It requires a critical look at current practices and, for many, the collaboration and approval of parent organizations, boards, and other entities.”
Previously, the AAM has encouraged employers to be transparent about salaries and to refrain from asking for salary history, drawing criticism for not going the extra mile to mandate salary disclosure. One of the AAM’s critics was the advocacy group National Emerging Museum Professionals Network (NEMPN), which has been at the forefront of the fight for salary transparency. In May, the NEMPN released an online petition calling on the AAM to require salary disclosures, using the hashtag #ShowTheSalary. The petition gained more than 700 signatures.
The NEMPN also launched the Equity in Pay + Pay Transparency Accountability Tracker, listing which popular museum job boards disclose salaries. This list also tracks unpaid internships, which are also known to contribute to hiring inequality. The AAM and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) job boards were among those that did not require salary transparency and allowed posting unpaid internships.
“The AAM accredits institutions, provides educational trainings, and works to be seen as a leader in the cultural field,” Sarah Marsom, who has been advocating for job board salary transparency since 2020, told Hyperallergic in a July interview. “They need to maintain standards that not only comply with state laws, but lead the shift toward more equitable workplaces. They have the power to set standards that will have positive impacts on workers.”
Pay transparency has been shown to be an effective way to shrink pay gaps. Michelle Millar Fisher, curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who organized the Art/Museum Salary Transparency database in 2019, told Hyperallergic that salary transparency “also encourages competitive wages in a field that is notorious for underpaying overqualified people, and it allows people to negotiate individually and collectively for salaries that meet the cost of living.”
In an update to the NEMPN’s online petition, celebrating the group’s victory after AAM’s announcement, the group’s co-president Sierra Van Ryck deGroot wrote, “This did not happen without all of our voices and the work of so many who advocated for this work before us.”