As marches, tweets, and scandals have reminded us in recent years, women tend to earn, on average, significantly less than men — even when they work identical jobs. And just because salaries in the art world are often much lower than in, say, finance or law, that doesn’t mean museums, galleries, and publications don’t also have a problem with paying women less than men. But how much, exactly? And in which parts of the industry?
To answer those questions, the Professional Organization for Women in the Arts (POWarts) has launched a public survey on financial compensation and job responsibilities in all sectors of the art world. (Similar surveys already exist in the tech industry, and just last month, a Google doc started circulating among TV writers to track their own wage differentials.) POWarts asks questions related to gender, location, job title, responsibilities, workload, educational and employment background, and employee benefits — and, of course, the all-important question of salary and hourly rates.
“This survey is not just for women. And not just for employees,” Sara Kay, founder of POWarts and Sara Kay Gallery, said in an email to Hyperallergic. “We need both men and women to participate in this survey to achieve our goal in capturing industry-wide statistics.” When she opened her new gallery last year, Kay said she thought a tool like this would have been extremely useful in hiring and retaining the best people. Employers could also use the data in ensuring a level of internal consistency.
“It’s abundantly clear that many job titles in the art world do not measure actual job responsibilities, and this survey attempts to compile data that will provide more relevant ways of gauging salary comparisons,” Kristen Becker, a member of the POWarts Steering Committe, said in an email to Hyperallergic. “While the results will be helpful to those starting out in the industry … we also hope the survey will help those at all levels of their career determine where their salary/benefits should be in relation to those of their peers.”
Although similar studies already exist for artists and museums, they’re often segregated by specific sector, location, or both. POWarts is unique in casting the widest net possible throughout the art world and across the globe. Once POWarts has its data, two female economists, Maricar Mabutas and Ging Cee Ng, plan to analyze it. POWarts plans to release its findings in the spring.
In the first 24 hours of its existence, Kay said, more than 500 people participated in the survey. “We are thrilled by the response. Clearly, there is both a desire and need for this information. Our minimum target was 1,000. I have little doubt that we will far exceed that number.”
The POWarts Salary Survey is open to visual arts workers of all genders through March 15.