During the racial awakening that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many organizations made public statements expressing their support for and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Companies and organizations across the country experienced fallout from stating support online while continuing to cause harm to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) staff within their companies. Museums across the country were not exempt from this blowback. Groups of museum staff wrote open letters and made statements about their experiences, attesting to the inequities of the industry, and decried the history of racism within our organizations. This resulted in some museums sharing the demographics of their staff and board members, increasing efforts to hire BIPOC staff, creating diversity positions, and implementing diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) plans.
In June 2020, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) took a public stance in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and in November 2020, the institution revised its strategic plan to focus and center DEIA initiatives. In taking this action, FAMSF actively began to shift toward becoming an anti-racist organization. In January 2021, the Human Resources department at FAMSF, in an effort to be transparent and highlight our journey, shared the demographics for both the civil service (City) and private, nonprofit (COFAM) members of our staff and boards. We continue to work with the city’s Office of Racial Equity to create opportunities for employees of color, including within our museum leadership.
Read Our Latest Racial Equity Action Plan.
Since publicly sharing our staff demographics in January 2021, we have learned that good intentions without continuous action are not enough. As we continue our journey of becoming an anti-racist organization, it is important to recognize where we are in that journey. It is equally significant to pay attention to how far we have come. Since January 2021, we have made progress in shifting our hiring practices and increased the number of BIPOC staff. This process was an intentional effort by our Human Resources department to look holistically at how we approach both hiring and retaining staff. This approach included updating current and new job descriptions with inclusive language, interrogating the educational requirements for certain positions, and in certain instances substituting professional experience for education requirements.
We quickly encountered the barrier of a lack of career pipeline for underrepresented individuals within the museum field. As a means of overcoming this barrier, we created four two-year fellowship positions and eight full-time paid summer internships. These positions allow individuals to work within the museum field, in their stated area of interest, and gain experience while being compensated. These new paid positions are a departure from our previous practice of unpaid professional development positions.