WASHINGTON—The Phillips Collection is pleased to announce the appointment of Makeba Clay as Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to lead its institutional inclusion strategy. The new role at the museum marks another major progression in the Phillips’s move to institutionally operationalize its commitment to diversifying its staff and board, exhibitions, programs, and partnerships. The creation of this executive role is championed by museum leadership and the museum’s Board of Trustees. Clay will report directly to the museum’s Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Dorothy Kosinski.
In 2013, an official Diversity Statement was adopted as part of the museum’s strategic plan. Staff has worked intensively since 2016 in an Inclusion and Diversity Task Force to instrumentalize changes in the museum’s programs and facilities, and to engage experts and coaches in exploring unintended biases with the entire staff. In addition, the museum follows a formalized philosophy to acquire
and show works by largely underrepresented groups including women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community. The CDO is charged with advancing the strategic priority of diversity and inclusion, which includes leading a major institutional push to promote change around the workforce, policies, and processes of the museum. The role will provide a vision and strategy for robust community engagement, which includes enhancing the museum’s current partnerships and creating new connections.
“This is a truly pivotal moment for the museum world but also for the Phillips as we approach our 100thanniversary,” said Dorothy Kosinski, Director of The Phillips Collection. “Duncan Phillips embraced a philosophy of diversity and inclusion as part of the museum’s cultural DNA. Makeba’s expertise and leadership will enable us to build upon the strong foundation we have established and better reflect on our exhibitions, programs, board, and the diverse populations we serve.”
“The Phillips is a pioneer as one of the first museums in the country to include a Chief Diversity Officer as part of the senior management team,” said Ms. Clay. “I’m honored and excited to lead the effort that will integrate diversity and inclusion into our broader organizational strategy, which will enable us to be more intentional in our efforts to attain far greater diversity across the museum and also foster a more inclusive workplace.”
A nationally recognized leader with more than 20 years of experience in the field, Clay has developed a significant track record of transformational contributions towards organizational equity, diversity, and inclusion goals in higher-education and cultural institutions, including American University, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, College of Southern Maryland, Princeton University, University of Maryland, and others. She was bestowed the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award by INSIGHT Magazine in 2015, and is a well-respected speaker for both national and international professional associations and conferences.
Funding for this position was made possible by a generous grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. The funding enables a paid fellowship program and series of paid internships. By removing barriers to access, the Sherman Fairchild Fellowship Program will work to build a more accessible pathway to the museum profession for individuals from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in the field. These and other innovative strategies demonstrates the unwavering commitment of the Phillips to increased diversity, and will allow the Phillips to play a positive and active role in the industry-wide conversation surrounding the inequity reflected in museum staffs, boards, and programming.