Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Women’s Locker Room Talk

Kaywin Feldman, Women’s Locker Room Talk: Gender and Leadership in Museums, Alliance Labs, 17 October 2016

Kaywin Feldman is the Duncan and Nivin MacMillan Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) since 2008. She also serves on the boards of National Arts Strategies, the Chipstone Foundation, and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). She is a past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and a past chair of AAM. You can find Kaywin on Twitter @kaywinfeldman.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts Director and President Kaywin Feldman.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts Director and President Kaywin Feldman.

I turned 50 this summer and my father passed away last year. Both events led me to do a lot of thinking about who I am, where I came from, and what I want to leave behind (commonly referred to as a mid-life crisis). At around the same moment AAM generously invited me to take 10 minutes at the annual meeting to talk about any subject I wanted to address. So I spoke about gender bias from a personal perspective. A friend said to me, “someone offered you the bully pulpit and you took it.”

I am at a point in my career where I can speak about the subject of gender bias, and have plenty of experience to share. After 23 years as a museum director, it is gratifying to have the platform to speak out, coupled with a secure position. I knew when I was told at the start of my career that I was “too young and too female for a curator to report” to me that I had to keep quiet and move on; I had too much to lose and not much to gain by speaking out at that time.

I think a lot — and worry a lot — about our field becoming almost entirely female. We are a stronger, healthier, and more relevant profession the more diverse we are in every possible way. And, as noted in my speech given at the 2016 AAM Annual Meeting, when professions become mostly female, they become less well respected and more poorly paid. After all, if so many women can do the job, how hard can it really be? I am very worried about this gradual change and to be honest, not sure what to do about it. I hope that others will join me in grappling with this issue before it just happens and we have to claw our way back.

Watch Kaywin’s powerful speech in the video on the Read more link where she discusses her experiences and observations as a female museum director. How can museums develop a culture that better values diverse leadership styles? If we did, how would this change the field? The following video was recorded May 27th at the American Alliance of Museum’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Read more

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