Compensation for Art Museum Directors: Do Men Really Get Paid More?

by Linda M. Lampkin, Senior Nonprofit Compensation Specialist 25. March 2014 12:29

The Association of Art Museum Directors recently reported that only 43% percent of art museums in the United States and Canada were headed by women, and salaries of those female directors averaged 79% of the salaries of their male peers.

The research showed that the gap varied with the size of the museum, as in these examples:

  • In museums with annual budgets less than $15 million, women directors actually make $1.02 on the dollar paid to male counterparts. There are many more women in these director positions.
  • In museums with budgets over $15 million, less than a quarter of the top positions are held by women, and they make 71 cents on the male dollar.
  • As the museums get larger, the number of women directors decreased.  The report found, at 33 art museums with annual budgets over $20 million, only five were run by women. 

ERI’s Nonprofit Comparables Assessor provides some insight on the actual level of salaries for museum directors across the United States, as reported on the Forms 990 filed annually with the IRS by each museum.   The table below lists the average salaries by size of the museum, as measured by annual revenues, but with no division by gender.

What is clear from the ERI analysis of Form 990 compensation data above is that directors of larger museums get paid much more than those of small museums. 

Reviewing the names of the directors can give an initial view of the male-female differences, but more research is required for some names that are not easily assigned a gender.  With that caveat, consider these findings:

  • Of the 20 highest paid directors of smaller museums (organizational revenues between $1 million and $5 million), 8 were women; there were 457 museums of that size category, and almost 40% of the total were headed by women.
  • Of the 20 highest paid directors of larger museums (revenues between $25 million and $50 million), 4 were women; there were 36 museums in that size category and, overall, less than a third were headed by women.

While the ERI analysis of director salaries by gender tends to confirm the findings of the Association of Art Museum Directors report, the method that nonprofit organizations need to use to set compensation that complies with IRS regulations remains the same – salary data from comparable organizations must be collected and analyzed. ERI’s Nonprofit Comparables Assessor provides a way to analyze the data by size, location, and by gender of the director to help ensure that there is no discrimination in setting compensation.