Notes from IHA

Notes from IHA

In the Jan.–Feb. 2018 issue of Museum, the America Alliance of Museums ran a summary report of Museum Board Leadership 2017, which is a national governance survey of museums it conducted in partnership with BoardSource and Northern Trust. The report grades boards on a variety of polices, practices, and performance. The Museum article summarizes the key findings and focuses on the report’s conclusions regarding diversity and inclusion. Excerpts from the findings are presented here. The complete report is available at the AAM website

1. Museum board performance is largely on a par with other nonprofits.
2. Museum directors and board chairs believe board diversity and inclusion are important to advance their missions, but have failed to prioritize steps to achieve it.
3. The vast majority of museums do not assess their performance.
4. Two-thirds of museum directors say their boards have a moderately to extremely positive impact on their job satisfaction.
5. Eighty percent of museums give themselves a grade of C or lower on monitoring legislative and
regulatory issues.
6. Museum board chairs express a high level of comfort related to fundraising activities, but fundraising is the board performance area most in need of improvement.
7. Museum boards meet frequently, but attendance is mediocre.”

In reviewing the topics of diversity and inclusion, the report notes that “while the population
is already one-third minority, heading towards majority minority, today only 9 percent of the
core visitors to museums are minorities and approximately 20 percent of museum employees
are minorities.”

There is a clear dissatisfaction among museum directors about the lack of diversity on boards,
yet the report states that “while 57 percent of museum directors have agreed that it’s important
to increase board diversity, only 10 percent report that the board has developed a detailed plan of action to become more diverse.”

To help move the board forward, the report suggests considering the following questions:
• “What information and data are needed to better understand the community you serve?
• What opportunities might be missed or what blind spots exist due to lack of diversity?
• How can the museum embrace the inclusion of individuals coming from diverse or
traditionally marginalized communities?”

It is worth remembering that while the basic context here is racial diversity, some communities
reflect a nearly homogenized racial makeup. Yet the word diversity means differing from one another. There are always points of difference and in every community there are those who are marginalized and considered “the other.” They need to be included, too.




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