“Common Interests Lead to Action” The Reawakening of a Call to Action for Gender Equity in our Museum Community

by Karen Marshall, member of the Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) Steering Committee

In 1973, a Women’s Caucus was held at the AAM Annual Meeting to call for change to end gender-based discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, support for transparent salary data, and fair employment practices.  How much has changed? Although today almost half of the museum profession is filled by women, not much. The Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) began as the result of a session at AAM in 2016. The four GEMM co-founders, Anne Ackerson, Joan Baldwin, Jessica Ferey, and Marieke Van Damme discovered a mutual interest in developing a national conversation and promoting gender equity practices at all levels of museum work.

What is the mission of GEMM?

The Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) is a coalition of individuals and organizations committed to raising awareness about gender inequity in the museum workplace and offering resources for change.

GEMM focuses on challenges and opportunities in the museum workplace for ALL women, regardless of race, ethnicity or orientation and gender identity or any other attribute.

GEMM on the West Coast

I recently joined the steering committee. My goal is to bring the conversation and action to the West Coast. I am coordinating a session at the Washington Museum Association Conference in Bellingham on Tuesday, June 21 and I am hoping to have a meetup at the WMA Meeting in October. I would be happy to help coordinate presentations at other state museum conferences or assist in developing GEMM circles, and meetups to promote ways all of us can create change in the museum workplace.

What can I do?

There are many ways to be involved. Join the GEMM Movement on Facebook or Twitter @The_GEMMuseums.

Participate in the Women in the Museum Workplace Survey 

Review the Call to Action on the GEMM website great resource and pick one way to get involved. Consider becoming a mentor to an emerging professional woman. Have lunchtime conversations with colleagues. Reach out to GEMM and let us know how we can help you.

Let’s work together to open new conversations and new awareness leading to real change in our museums.


Karen Marshall met Joan Baldwin and Anne Ackerson at the AAM Meeting in 2016 and participated in the research conducted for their book, Women in the Museum (Routledge, 2017). She currently is a governance consultant and teaches in the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education Museum Studies Program. Karen finds her interest in the GEMM movement intersects with her work as a member of Soroptimist International of the Americas Cascadia Online Club, whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Karen can be reached at karen@letsmakehistory.org



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