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By Haitham Eid, Southern University at New Orleans, USA; Bettina Fisher, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, USA; Jennifer Himmelreich, Peabody Essex Museum, USA; Heather Hart, The Broad, USA
Beyond a few articles and some statistical studies, and despite its importance to museum work, it can be argued that the issue of workforce diversity in museums has been overlooked. This article aims to investigate how workforce diversity can impact the innovation capabilities of museums as well as their relevance to the communities they serve.
The lack of diversity in museums exceeds professional positions and extends to board members, constituents, and donors, who are usually described as overwhelmingly White, able-bodied, college-educated, and affluent. This research questions if some of the problems which museums face today, such as the lack of attendance, relevance and innovation are linked to the lack of diversity. Workplace diversity is a major factor in how the public perceives the institution, and accordingly chooses to interact, or not to interact, with it.
This research uses aspects of the Museum Innovation Model (Eid, 2016) around social innovation, and draws upon some empirical studies in the museology and business studies literature on workplace diversity. For example, the definition and impact of two-dimensional diversity—which takes into consideration inherent and acquired factors—is explored. Additionally, this paper reviews some of the common strategies inside and outside the museum sector to increase workforce diversity, including training and internship programs, as well as affirmative action policies and guidelines.
The paper concludes by acknowledging that museums with a diverse workforce are better positioned to innovate and engage more diverse communities. Workforce diversity ensures that there is a large pool of knowledge, skills, life experiences, perspectives, and expertise to help the institution face today’s challenges more effectively and efficiently.