Putting GEMM Out of Business: Appreciation & Gratitude to Co-Founders Anne Ackerson and Joan Baldwin
After several years, GEMM is saying goodbye and “see you later” to Anne Ackerson and Joan Baldwin as they rotate off the Steering Committee. While it isn’t a surprise--they are both busy people with many other projects--it’s hard all the same. Their deep knowledge, commitment to the cause of gender equity, and sharp insights based on years of experience will be hard to replace.
GEMM officially came into being in early 2017, but really formed a year earlier when Anne, Joan, our colleague Jessica Ferey, and I presented "What We Talk About When We (Don't) Talk About Women in Museums" at the American Alliance of Museums conference in D.C. Knowing we hit a nerve, but not knowing quite how to harness the energy in the room, we decided to create a more formal group and settled on GEMM: Gender Equity in Museums Movement. Since then, we’ve built up a brand and following of colleagues in the field who are helping us spread the word about this issue that is (admittedly one of many) destroying the museums we love.
Even if you’ve never met them personally, surely you must feel like you know Anne and Joan. They are persistent, smart, and approachable. They have worked tirelessly in the field for years as authors, mentors, presenters, and teachers. When hearing them speak about gender issues in museums, you know they have great respect for the women who came before them, and that they genuinely care about what happens to us long after they’ve retired. They have gratitude for the past, and great concern for our future. Aren’t they both who you want to be when you grow up?
As the only original GEMM Co-founder left in the group, I must admit I will feel a tad bit adrift without them; however, I and my fellow Steering Committee members will do our best to educate all museum workers about gender inequality and fight for change. We will put GEMM out of business.
As a parting gift, Anne and Joan kindly offered up some advice for all of us concerned about and committed to gender in the museum workplace. I couldn’t be more grateful for this, and for their years of service to the field. I hope you will join me in thanking them and wishing them well on their next adventures.
--Marieke Van Damme, GEMM Co-Founder
"While I fully support the intersectional work underway in the museum field, I remain concerned that so many younger women (of all races) don't yet know they are paid less than their male counterparts (and how that impacts their long-term financial health), they don't know how to negotiate salaries and benefits (and aren't taught why it's important to do so), and that they continue to fall prey to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.
Many younger women I'm fortunate to talk with tell me they lack confidence in the workplace. They pull themselves up short by not applying for positions they don't feel 100% qualified for or by not taking on opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills for fear of failure. Apart from the many ills roiling society generally and cultural institutions in particular, I think female-identifying GLAM workers and those who support them need to come together to overcome the 'confidence gap' and get 'workplace savvy.' It transcends race and to some extent it transcends age.
I think GEMM can be most effective by continuing to document the landscape of discrimination in museums and share its findings widely. Gender equity has been an important part of my life and career, and helping create GEMM provided a focus and outlet for raising awareness about it."
"Museum workers: remember that change in the museum workplace is only partly up to that nameless, faceless "them" of boards, leaders and deciders. Fifty percent is up to us on the ground, remembering to help one another, to stand up for one another, to support each other, and to be kind, to work hard to create a humane workplace. Gender equity is part of that.
Ultimately, I would like to see GEMM put itself out of business, because workplace equity will become a commonplace of museums. Until then, I hope GEMM continues to build bridges and make alliances. If the museum workforce needs to be diverse, then those fighting for change need all the help they can get."