A few months ago, I co-authored a paper on the state of labor in the museum field. My co-author, Emma Boast, and I were fired up after reading Amy Tyson’s book The Wages of History, and wanted to think further on the issue of labor in the field we are planning on re-entering after we graduate from Brown. Museums, especially smaller ones, can be extraordinarily predatory towards their staff; museum workers (many of whom are women) are underpaid, overeducated, and burning out quickly. The situation can feel hopeless at times, especially since a major structural change in the system will take time to implement. But despite this, museum workers stay in their jobs. Why? One thing that stands out to me is that there’s a peculiar blending of professional and personal identities amongst workers in the museum field; people are now so personally invested in their careers (for a number of reasons we explored in our essay) that it becomes a “labor of love,” despite all the factors that should be pushing us out.
For an upcoming W&T meeting, I’ve volunteered to discuss this issue of labor as it relates to women working in technology. At the end of our paper, Emma and I made recommendations for museum administrators to help create structural changes that will benefit museum workers, and I wanted to structure our meeting around this topic and think about it further as a group. I recognize that these are pretty different professional fields, but I think there are some inherent similarities between the state of work in both, especially the difficult balance between work and personal lives.
I’m writing this blog post in order to both to get you thinking about the issue of work in this field and to invite you to share your insight on the topic. Thinking about your own work life, what concerns do you have about the state of work for women working in technology? What would you want changed about our workplaces, both logistically and culturally, that will help ease your concerns? Any recommendations, both for individuals and administrators? I’m excited to hear from you; please share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.