Mellon Foundation Releases Latest Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey Results

back view of museum visitor in pink jacket and pink wig looking towards gallery wall Photo: Trunk Archive

Third cycle of survey from 328 North American museums finds that diversity on museum staffs is continuing to improve

The Mellon Foundation today released the findings of its third cycle of the Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey. The report, created in partnership with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), shows that despite layoffs and closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the field continues to grow more diverse.

Conducted by Ithaka S+R between February and April of 2022, the survey gathered data from 328 participating museums in North America—a data set that included facts on over 30,000 individual museum staffers.

The findings show that, relative to the previous two surveys in 2015 and 2018, museum staffs have seen moderate increases in the proportion of people of color (POC) across all museum roles. In 2015, 27 percent of museum staff included in the report were POC; in 2022, that rose to 36 percent. This growth includes museum leadership positions, where the number of Black staff members has more than doubled since 2015. 

After significant job losses in some of the most diverse departments in museums—including security, facilities, and education—as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, museums have substantially increased diverse staffing in all of these areas since 2020. 

“Though progress remains slow and uneven, the demographics of museum employees across the country are becoming more reflective of the diverse communities their organizations serve,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation. “We are pleased that the information and insights included in this latest survey will further equip and encourage American museums to build even more representative and robust arts and culture institutions throughout the United States.”

Gender ratios on museum staffs have remained constant (at 40 percent male and 60 percent female) since the first survey in 2015, though they vary widely across museum roles. For instance, female employees comprise over 75 percent of museum staff in education positions and intellectual leadership roles. Moreover, the representation of female employees in museum leadership has increased from 58 percent in 2015 to 66 percent in 2022.

The percentage of POC staff varies widely by racial/ethnic group and by position within the museum. The demographic changes in museum staff since 2015 are due primarily to increases in staff from three backgrounds: Hispanic, Asian, and those who are two or more races. The overall representation of Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander staff has not significantly changed since 2018. And while there has been an increase in POC staff percentages from 2015 to 2022 for every position, current percentages of POC staff are not distributed equally. For example, 20 percent of Museum Leadership and Conservation staff are POC, while 35 percent of Public Engagement and 47 percent of Building Operations staff are POC. Overall, POC employees make up 45 percent of total current museum staff hired in 2021.

In addition to the staff demographic data, this year’s report also included supplemental perspectives from museum directors, drawn from the recently released Art Museum Director Survey 2022, about their efforts to address diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) among their staff. Museum directors are increasingly prioritizing DEAI work, the museum director survey found; more than twice as many museum directors see DEAI as central to their work compared to the last art museum director survey administered in 2020. A higher percentage of directors of museums with at or above-average staff diversity indicated that numerous DEAI strategies were a very high priority, when compared with directors of museums where staff diversity was below average.

This survey reflects emerging hiring trends in the art museum field, explores how the COVID-19 pandemic affected museum staffing, and highlights the gradual increase in diversity across museum staffs in recent years. While the percentage of POC staff has increased from 2015 to 2022 within and across roles, there are still roles that are overwhelmingly and disproportionately held by white staff. The Mellon Foundation and its partners have engaged in this project for more than seven years and across three cycles. This consistency has generated the insights gained from this current round of data.

The full report is available here (PDF).

For more information, contact

Ed Winstead
Senior Director, Cultural Counsel

Sam Riehl
Senior Account Executive, Cultural Counsel

Tonya Bell
Director of Media & Public Relations, Mellon Foundation