Progress Not Perfection: The Work of Ariel Schudson


This piece was originally published on the SAA (Society of American Archivists) Issues & Advocacy Blog. Sadly, some of the links that were once available are now what are considered “dead links” as in they lead to nothing/nowhere so the link aspect has been removed. The livetweet link was removed because it linked to a Storify document and Storify is a resource that has been put out of circulation and is no longer available to be used. The other primary link was for the “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap” article which now sends you to a 404 error. My apologies on these digital issues but I will say that this piece was thoroughly researched and well-documented at the time of publication and the arguments remain intact.


Authorial Disclaimer: The words and opinions articulated here are my own. They do not express the views of anyone/organization/company that I am involved with, although they may be parallel at certain points.

Now- let’s discuss archivist issues!

Full disclosure: I am a white, cis-woman moving image archivist. I wish I could say that I am aware of my privilege at all times but if I said that, it would be ridiculous. That is the truth. However, being aware and conscious of my privilege is the best opportunity that I have of providing current colleagues, friends and unmet archival professionals of color a safe and comfortable space to flourish in this community that I love so much.

It is, of course, a complex privileged status, as I am a woman and that in and of itself has a variety of not-so-privileged associations such as lower wages, sexual harassment concerns and a smorgasbord of negative gender-related realities. What I do know is that if these situations are bad for me, they are worse for women of color. For example, the most highly discussed topic for women in the workplace is pay-grade. While I may get paid less than any man, a woman of color would be getting paid even less according to available statistics.

What is striking (though not surprising) is that there are no easily accessible statistics for the pay of women archivists, and none at all for women archivists of color! There is very little statistical data on women within the information science, preservation or curatorial fields. Yet, we exist. Enforce and growing. When I recently participated in the Woman Archivist Roundtable’s livetweet about salary negotiations (hashtag #SAAWAR on twitter), this same issue was raised and the American Association of University Women linked their Spring 2016 edition of “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.” This is probably the most helpful publication I have found in establishing some idea of what women (and more importantly, women of color) are being paid but it still never mentions career choices that come close to our world. And we are a highly specialized group.

As information-based professionals, we crave decent analytics to back up our work, apply for grants or to simply help our archival sensibilities be more at peace. While many of us primarily process and restore physical elements, metadata creation and descriptive cataloging are critical aspects of our workflow. So what does it mean when the metadata about our own field and our own descriptive sets are not being ingested in larger reports? Are we made invisible, having to forever gauge our work by “similar careers and statistical evidence”? While I don’t believe that we are special “better than you” snowflakes, the exclusion of our field leaves us with no analytics to work with and continues the assumption that archivists are less important. The lack of information about women of color…well, see previous sentence.

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2016 by in Archiving, feminism, Intersectionality and tagged , , , , .
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