Compensation and Hiring

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Examining and reimagining our pay and hiring practices is one way to address inequity and increase diversity in our field. In order to lift up our profession, we must address low or no pay and broaden our scope when looking for new staff. The following guidelines are a place to start.

Compensation[edit | edit source]


Abolish unpaid internships.

When many conservators begin their career earning no money, it is not surprising that the whole field is affected with low wages. By abolishing unpaid internships, we set the bar higher at the beginning of a conservator’s career, raising up our whole field. In addition, earning a wage gives young conservators a sense of greater self worth, encouraging them to negotiate for higher wages as they go further in their career. Unpaid internships also discriminate against poorer candidates who cannot afford to work unpaid and creates the lack of diversity in our workforce that we experience today. Interns in unpaid situations are also more vulnerable to an exploitative environment, often replacing a paid worker while not receiving the experience they were promised.

Calls for paid internships have been repeated by various organizations in the arts, including the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Further reading


All internships, fellowships, and graduate school stipends should meet the MIT Living Wage for the area and include cost of living adjustments (COLA).

The MIT Living Wage Calculator calculates the income individuals must make to meet the minimum standards of living in a region. Fellowships and graduate school stipends should meet this minimum. In addition, they should include an increase for the estimated cost of living from year to year. Without meeting these minimum standards, fellows and students are expected to find other sources of income, often family members, to support them, and this is not possible for everyone. This also applies to staff positions, both temporary and permanent.

We also encourage you to provide other types of support for interns. If you can only provide a modest stipend, you can make up the difference by providing housing or covering major transportation costs. Perhaps you can provide meals if your university or archaeological site has a cafeteria. Think outside the box on how to properly compensate interns.

Include salary information and benefits in all job, fellowship, and internship postings.

Many employers believe that salary disclosure will reduce the number of promising applicants, interfere with the institution's ability to negotiate, or create distress among current employees. However, salary disclosure is one step in creating transparency and equity during the hiring process, which can have beneficial effects across our field. It ensures that candidates have a greater understanding of the position and are comfortable with its salary range, minimizing wasted time in the application process for both job candidates and employers. Salary disclosure is also one way to begin closing the gender wage gap and to address one of the factors contributing to the lack of diversity in our workforce.

There is a significant movement in the nonprofit sector for greater salary transparency. Among conservation groups, the AIC Objects Specialty Group, the Midwest Regional Conservation Guild, and the United Kingdom's The Institute of Conservation already recommend these steps. The Art + Museum Transparency group, a worker activist group that manages two viral spreadsheets for salary and internship transparency, state that "this practice will play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of women and minorities being historically underpaid in comparison to their white male counterparts." You can read their opinion in its entirety on Hyperallergic.

Salary disclosure serves the interests of both employees and employers. If your HR department does not allow salary disclosure, please consider this an opportunity to explain its benefits to our field as well as the cultural heritage sector at large. Some employees have succeeded in changing HR policies at their institutions by advocating for this process. If you are soliciting quotes for a contract position, please indicate this in the posting.

Further reading


Do not ask for salary history.

By perpetuating past inequities, basing salary on past compensation contributes to the wage gap experienced by women, people of color, and people with disabilities. Base your salary on market rates and salary surveys of comparable positions in your area. In a growing number of states and municipalities, it is illegal to ask about salary history or consider salary history in determining salary offers.

Publicly available salary surveys:

Hiring[edit | edit source]


Create an ethical internship program.

Hiring an intern should not be seen as a replacement for a paid staff member. Internship programs provide benefits for both the intern and the department. A strong internship program should be a hands-on mentoring relationship where the intern is learning transferable skills, likely creating less time for you to do your own work. The intern is also expected to help with mundane daily tasks alongside their other work.

It is also important to provide structure and evaluation. What you expect from your intern and what the intern can expect from the internship should be clear from the outset. In addition, periodically conduct evaluations to ensure that both intern and supervisor are happy with the progress, and set these dates ahead of time.

Further reading


Broaden the scope of where you post jobs/internships/fellowships.

In addition to the sites we are all familiar with for conservation listings, post the position more broadly to reach a wider audience, particularly for internships. Some suggestions include:


It is also important to actually advertise the position, not simply hire from within the institution. Internal hires are valid and institutional experience is important, however, too much internal hiring perpetuates bias and does not provide opportunities for the field at large.

Address bias in hiring practices.

Studies show that the hiring process is biased and unfair, with unconscious racism, sexism, and ageism playing a role in who gets the job. Review the hiring process to address potential biases. Examine the position requirements and make sure the credentials are skill-based, not credential-based. Here are some tips:

  • Evaluate your education requirements. Is an advanced degree necessary for the position?
  • Review the job description. Research shows that some language is more “masculine”, while other words imply “feminine” characteristics. There are software programs that will evaluate your text and look for stereotypically gendered words so you can replace it with something more neutral.
  • Consider a “blind” application review process. This helps you focus on the skills a candidate brings to the job, not biases that will creep in as you assess an application. Check out Eastern State Penitentiary’s experience with blind hiring.
  • Give a skills test. A Yale study shows how quickly we judge based on class status. This is one factor among many different types of biases that influence how we evaluate a job candidate. A skills test will focus the interview on what the candidate brings to the job, not on their socioeconomic status or other factors that should not influence hiring.


Further reading


Phone and Video Interviewing[edit | edit source]


There is a growing trend, and necessity for, phone and video interviewing. Certainly, these means of interviewing are more accessible to some and allow for larger pools of candidates that perhaps would not have been reached otherwise. However, there are still biases that come into play in these situations that it is important to be aware of and address in our hiring. There is a lack of consensus on bias in video interviewing, but the risks of bias are always present, and everyone can work to minimize negative impact by having the proper guidelines in place.


Evidence suggests we make judgments about class, gender, and even skill, based on how others speak, their accents, and the cadence of their voices.


Further reading


There are many articles online that discuss the pitfalls and positives of video and phone interviewing; however, many are published by video and phone conferencing/interviewing platforms, so it’s important to be critical of the sources. Whether video or phone interviews are chosen, following guidelines can reduce overall bias including suggestions outlined in the section above on ‘Addressing bias in hiring practices.’