Before getting started I just want to point out that 20 slides at 20 seconds is 6.66 minutes. This isn’t to imply that either gender balance *or* the heritage professions are of the devil. Just sayin’, that’s all. If you’re looking for answers, sorry. This session is about questions.
This presentation developed from an SAA Diversity Committee discussion about the representation of various groups in the archives profession. Several of us remarked on the significant number of women working in archives. Did we need to work to *fix* that imbalance?
Hmmmm. I got to thinking about the broader set of heritage professionals. And started to frame better questions. Is there a gender imbalance in heritage? If so, why might that be? And most importantly: does it matter? To professionals? To researchers? To collections?
What follows are quick snapshots of some predominant heritage professions. For archivists under 30, this number approaches 80% women. This proportion has changed rapidly. Forty years ago, two thirds of archivists were men.
The numbers are a little more balanced in the universities. Women make up 68% of academic librarians. But the same issues that exist in other heritage professions exists here. Nearly half of academic library directors and 35% of public library directors are male.
In a survey of museum professionals under age 30 that was done in 2006, 83% were women. Despite this, men occupy 53 percent of executive director positions and 75 percent of CEO seats at the nation’s largest and best-funded institutions.
While not technically a heritage profession, much of our work increasingly requires the sorts of skills used by information technology professionals. And it is the only profession listed here trending towards more men. In 1984, 34% of IT professionals were women.
Of all the heritage professions, academic historians are bucking the trend. And at the full professor level, women represent less than 15%. Why is that? The gender balance of public and oral historians, though, closely resembles the other heritage professions. Perhaps there’s something to see in the difference.
As of January 2011, 87 percent of Wikipedia contributors were men. The Oregon Encyclopedia is doing better, but 57 percent of its authors are men. Why do women preserve heritage and men write about it?
Why do men and women go into strongly gendered professions? The research is unclear, but there seems to be a tipping point at which professions become “gendered” and people begin to self-select into/out of that profession or skill set. Often at an early age.
The biggest impact in gendered workplaces is pay. In most heritage professions, women have “advanced” to the point that they make roughly 80 cents to the dollar for equivalent work. That’s a little better than three fifths, but not much.
But as we’ve seen in the individual professions above, even in feminized professions, men still have disproportionate numbers of leadership roles. Anecdotal sources indicate that women are just as interested in full, respected participation in their work as they are in equal pay.
One way to rationalize the feminization of heritage is to see it in the terms above. Complex, multidisciplinary, team-based, connective – these *do* describe a lot of our work. So how do men fit?
“ Solutions” may be premature. We may not understand what imbalance means in the context of the heritage professions. Perhaps the current gender imbalance, or even a different one, is beneficial to heritage in general. We need to know more.
Well, actually, many things matter. *But in this context,* what matters is preserving all types of cultural heritage, connecting them to as broad an audience as possible, and attracting diverse professionals to do it.
Selection of important things that need preserved is a key function of most heritage professions. Does the record skew if women are doing most of choosing? And even if the majority of heritage professionals are women, *do* they do most of the choosing?
Library use and Museum attendance trend about 60% women. Does a gender imbalance create the illusion that heritage is for chicks? Does it just represent existing interests? Most importantly, is there a gender component to the way heritage is presented to potential users?
If we want to attract a diverse set of individuals to the heritage professions, we need to understand why the professions are currently feminized. Are they seen a places for men to work? For women? Modern men and women do not want to be trapped; they want to freely choose.
We are only promised a pursuit of happiness, but it should be uninhibited pursuit. We need to be sure that the nature of gender balance in the heritage professions is not an obstacle to participation – either as a consumer or as a practitioner of any of the disciplines.
If we want a better world we need both to be willing to work for it *and* to understand what changes are needed. We have the first inclination. Now we just need the information to guide that desire. Thanks.
Pecha kucha (finalish)
Gender Balance in the Heritage Professions Terry Baxter [email_address] ultco.us terryx.wordpress.com Northwest Archivists, 2011 Helena, Montana
“ There are no right answers to wrong questions.”
Archivists <ul><li>Archivists keep records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records. </li></ul>67% 33% Women Men
Librarians <ul><li>Librarians organize and manage information services or materials for those with information needs. </li></ul>82% 18% Women Men
Museum Professionals <ul><li>A public or private nonprofit agency or institution organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes, which, utilizing a professional staff, owns or utilizes tangible objects, cares for them, and exhibits them to the public on a regular basis. </li></ul>63% 37% Women Men
Information Technology Professionals <ul><li>Design, develop, and use technologically based systems and processes that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of information in a variety of strategic, tactical, and operational situations. </li></ul>21% 79% Women Men
Historians <ul><li>Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all events in time. </li></ul>66 34 Oral 65 35 Public 41 59 Academic Women Men
It’s Not Just About the Money Courtesy Rebecca Goldman, Derangement and Description , (http://bit.ly/BDa5W)
What do women bring? Or, why might the heritage professions attract women. <ul><li>“ Women are well known to have strong abilities at integration, and right now many of the frontiers of science are multidisciplinary... The women do seem to be doing well in those areas. Some of the problems are so complex there’s a need to work in teams. A more team-based, consensus-building approach, at which women do well, is definitely the wave of the future. I think there’s more of that approach now, but there are still not many women to drive it.” </li></ul>