Women as agents of change in the cultural heritage sector





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This study of 12 women professionals in archaeology and heritage grew out of my interest in archaeological ethics. The study addresses issues of heritage management and values and the role of multiple stakeholders in the stewardship of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Today women play an important role in the cultural heritage sector, including public archaeology initiatives and education programs in archaeology and heritage. My own experiences and my observations of women colleagues in the field led me to ask questions about their role as leaders in the changing cultural heritage arena. My two key questions were: How do women professionals in the cultural heritage sector describe the changing issues they face in their professional lives? What new strategies are cultural heritage professionals using in their teaching, scholarship, and service to respond to changing realities? Over a two-year period beginning in 2007, I carried out semi-structured qualitative interviews with 12 women from four countries. Using narrative analysis and a constructivist approach to grounded theory, I identified themes that appeared throughout the interviews. Research findings are presented through extended narrative portraits of four of the interviewees and an integrated summary of data from all the interviews organized by key themes that emerged through document analysis. The experiences of the women in my study corroborate the findings of recent publications and reports on the status of women in archaeology. While significant progress has been made toward gender equity, there are still challenges related to employment opportunities, salary disparities, and work and family issues. The women in this study are risk takers, serious scholars, and they place a high value on working collaboratively and in community. Their approach to archaeology is consistent with newly emerging trends in heritage studies.

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