Today, ICOM can proudly say that we have achieved gender equality within our organisation: 54% of the presidents of National Committees and 63% of the International Committees chairs are female. Our Executive Board mirrors perfectly our membership, with 62% of both made up by women. Nevertheless, the world of museums is not as equal as our organisation. While the number of women accessing to leadership positions in museums keeps growing, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality.
As International Women’s Day approaches, we decided to ask the female presidents of ICOM’s national and international committees why equality is important for the social role of museums. Here are their inspiring answers:
- “What better place than museums can there be to shelter and preserve the collective memory of women, to provide insight into our role in society past and present and to inspire us for action to create a more just and egalitarian world? Peace in our societies is only possible by reinstating equality. And, gender equality is one of its most basic forms. Happy International Women’s Day 2018!” – Suay Aksoy, ICOM President
- “Each exhibition has social, cultural and aesthetic components. All of these touch on the social role of museums, and all of them, whether directly or by implication, concern women as members of the society represented. The richer the diversity of viewpoints in museums, the more relevant and effective their work will be to their communities.” – Jean L. Druesedow, Chair of the ICOM International Committee for Museums and Collections of Costume and director of the Kent State University Museum in the US
- “Museums need to stand firm, with individuals and diverse communities around the world, against prejudice, stereotype and inequality. We are not islands of pure research and conservation, laying out ‘our’ superior knowledge for ‘them’ the passive elite visitors, but dynamic forums for justice in the global contemporary. Gender equality is central to this mandate.” – Dr. Viv Golding, Chair of the ICOM International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography and Emeritus Associate Professor at the University of Leicester in the UK
- “It is imperative to have perspective of both genders if museums wish to play active social roles. Placing women on decision making roles will change the way museums are being run today. Museums can be change-makers only if they have acceptability and involvement from all genders.” – Reena Dewan, President of ICOM India and vice-president of Emami Art in India
- “The roles of the museums are to exhibit from their collections, reflect societies, history, cultural behaviors, traditions, rituals and to provide their visitors with the equal opportunity to access, understand and recognize their history, identity and cultural background. In order to meet the requirements from a diverse audience, the stories told and the objects exhibited must be selected and interpreted in a way that is all inclusive.” – Kristiane Strætkvern, Chair of the ICOM International Committee of Conservation and conservator at the National Museum of Denmark
- “To develop their social role, museums must be a microcosm of the society – but rather than just a mirror, a mirror of the future. In other words, it must incorporate in its operational mode what we want society to be. Therefore, museums must be open to everybody and promote equal access to opportunities.” – Milene Chiovatto, Chair of the ICOM International Committee for Education and Cultural Action and Head of the Education Department at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil
- “Why is gender equality important for the social role of museums? So that little girls see themselves represented, and little boys learn balance.” – Nerys Rudder, President of ICOM Barbados and freelance conservator
Find more about ICOM’s actions to promote gender equality by checking our hashtag #womeninmuseums on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.