Post-election Twitter chat

WAR Post-election Twitter ChatWAR will be holding a post-election Twitter chat, where we will discuss questions and hopefully come up with some action items that we can all do in our repositories and communities to try and move forward in a way that reflects democracy and humanity and our professional responsibilities as archivists.

This Friday, November 11, 2016. 12:30pm-1:30pm EST on Twitter. Follow @WomenArchivists and use #saawar. We hope you can join in.


Remembering Brenda Banks

On July 25, 2016, archivist, colleague, mentor, friend, and leader Brenda Banks passed away. The Women Archivists Roundtable created a post on the blog where colleagues and friends could share their memories and thoughts about Banks for WAR to add to a compilation post. Thank you to everyone who shared comments!

Rebecca Hankins:

The Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable (AACR) and the large number of African American archivists are testimony to the strength of Brenda Banks contributions to archives and the archival profession. She will be missed!

Audree D. Irons:

I first met Brenda in the early 90’s while working as the Administrative Assistant for the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College. I remember being so impressed with her simply because she was the FIRST African American archivist I’d ever met which was unheard of! My most memorable moment of her in action was when she assisted Spelman in obtaining Audrey Lorde papers! She will be missed, but not forgotten. Thank you Brenda for sharing your passion and expertise in documenting our history for future generations as well as opening up this field for other African American women to follow.

Chiyoko Ogawa CA:

It was late 1994 when Brenda visited Japan as a member of ICA PDP–program for disaster preventiion. Besides many official meetings PDP members found time for sight seeing and visited an ancient shrine at Kamakura. It was a beautiful day and we happened to see a traditional Japanes wedding ceremony.


Brenda was fierce! I will never forgot the time in the 1990s she cornered me at the Georgia Archives – I was doing some consulting there and was also managing editor of the SGA journal “Provenance” at the time.

She came at me, and I could see by her face she was displeased. I trembled. Brenda demanded to know why a particular Georgia archivist had published with MAC and not with SGA!? I hand no clue, and I don’t think that was a good answer….oh, my….I made it my business from that moment on to attempt to find out who of our archivists planned to publish where.

Brenda was full of surprises! Another great memory I have of her centered on our attending an SAA meeting in the mid to late 1990s, it may have been in St. Louis, or Pittsburgh. One evening several of us were in Brenda’s room chatting. Suddenly she looked at me, grabbed my hand and said “I’m going to give you a manicure!” What a shock, especially after our GA Archives run-in. Well, she gave me a manicure right then and there, and it was delightful. I will never forget it.

Brenda was one-of-a-kind and will be missed by all who knew her.

Dianne Valentin:

This is such sad news.

James F. Cartwright:

Having just read of Brenda’s passing, I belatedly write to you to say I appreciate Brenda’s friendliness and welcoming when I was a relatively new archivist. Though she was heavily involved in various leadership roles, she also took time to learn my name, to say hello. This was very important to me. She was highly professional and contributed much to the archival profession. Her leadership and scholarship are well established. I hope you find consolation in your loss.


In Memoriam: Brenda Banks

Brenda Banks, the 51st President of the Society of American Archivists (1995-1996), former President of the Society of Georgia Archivists, SAA Fellow, and President and CEO of Banks Archives Consultants, sadly passed away July 25, 2016. For additional information about colleague and mentor Brenda Banks, please see the Society of Georgia Archivists’s post and SAA’s post.

Submit your memories about Brenda Banks below so that WAR can create a compilation post in memory of her impact on the archives profession. Please include your name with your comment only if you want us to mention it in the post.

Three Questions: Luciana Duranti

Luciana Duranti has been since 1987 a professor of archival theory, diplomatics, and the management of digital records in the master’s and doctoral archival programs of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies of the University of British Columbia (UBC). She is also Faculty Associate Member of the UBC College for Interdisciplinary Studies, Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre, and Affiliate Full Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. Duranti is Director of the Centre for the International Study of Contemporary Records and Archives (CISCRA— and of InterPARES, the largest and longest living publicly funded research project on the long-term preservation of authentic electronic records (1998-2018), the Digital Records Forensics Project, and the Records in the Clouds Project. She is co-Director of the Law of Evidence in the Digital Environment Project. She has published more than 150 referred articles/book chapters and 5 books.Luciana Duranti

Duranti is a fellow of both the SAA and the Association of Canadian Archivist (ACA). She has been an SAA Council Member (1992-95) and the only person to serve as President of both the SAA (1998-9) and the ACA (2016-18).

Duranti has been honoured with the British Columbia Faculty Associations’ Academic of the Year Award (1999), and her research has been recognized in 2006 with the Emmett Leahy Award for her contributions to records management; the British Columbia Innovation Council Award—annually presented to “an individual who has opened new frontiers to scientific research;” and the Killam Research Prize; and in 2007 with the Jacob Biely Research Prize—the University of British Columbia’s “premier research award.”  In 2012 she was awarded the Inaugural ARMA International “Award for Academic Excellence in teaching, research, and contribution to the global citizenry,” and in 2014 she became one of the very few humanists worldwide ever inducted as a member of the Academy of Galileo Galilei in Padua. But the award she cherishes the most is the one that introduced her to the SAA and the North American archival profession, which she received in 1985: the Oliver Wendell Holmes Award!

What interested you in becoming an archivist?

My answer is from a piece I wrote on a blog called “How I started,” published by the UK and England Archives and Records Association Section for New Professionals, because I cannot find better words to explain how it happened. My statement on the blog is much longer and illustrated with pictures, so, if you would like to read it all, the posting is here:

“When I was a teenager I wanted to study math and I knew I would never want to be a teacher, because in my family everybody was a professor and all our meal conversations were about students: not much fun! What happened to that plan?

I grew up in Italy and, at the time of starting university, it became clear to me that, if I took math, I would end up being a high school teacher, because in those times girls were not expected to take jobs in business and industry or scientific research, while humanistic subjects offered more opportunities. I studied classics and history and I became passionate about the latter, so I asked my thesis supervisor whether she thought I should continue with historical studies to become a professional researcher. She responded that I was “far too brilliant to be an historian” and I should rather become an archivist. I knew little about archives, which I mostly experienced as a user in the process of writing my thesis, but I was fascinated by the Tabularium, the archives of ancient Rome (, and its function in the context of the Roman democratic republic, so I followed my professor’s advice.

Thus, I studied archival science and competed for the position of state archivist. In 1978 I became state archivist at the State Archives of Rome, and started working in one the most beautiful architectural structure of the baroque times, Borromini’s Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza.”

Who has influenced you in your career?

Definitely my archival studies professors: Leopoldo Sandri, Arnaldo D’Addario and Elio Lodolini for Archival Science, Alessandro Pratesi for Diplomatics, and Giulio Battelli and Armando Petrucci for Palaeography. My mind set was shaped by these scholars, who were giants in all of Europe—not only Italy, and whose writings still guide much of classic archival education in Latin countries and beyond (a Japanese colleague recently told me that he studied the same texts). They introduced me to the international archival literature from Europe, North and South America, and Australia… though I read it mostly in translation.

When I moved to Canada in 1987 I endeavoured to read everything I could put my hands on in order to understand North American archives, starting with Schellenberg of course. But it was Terry Eastwood who led me to the old texts, such as Jones, Berner, Holmes, Brooks, and it was my ongoing discussion with him about these authors and their ideas that spurred the development of my own ideas.

Terry was also responsible for my focus on diplomatics. He asked me to teach a course on contemporary diplomatics and, to win my skepticism, took me to visit W.K. Lamb, retired Dominion Archivist and Librarian, who spent an afternoon explaining the value of diplomatics in shaping the archival mind-set. As soon as I figured out that diplomatics was records management theory, I made the connection with what Kent Haworth and Reuben Ware had been telling me since I first arrived in Canada about functional classification, office of primary responsibility, and all those concepts that flowed into the British Columbia and Nova Scotia classification systems. Kent and Reuben had a delayed influence on my thinking, but a strong one nonetheless.

However, I have to recognize that the strongest influence on my career through the years has been that of my students. Every original thought I have had has come from an effort to answer their questions, to respond to their challenges, to address their concerns, to understand their points, and to explain myself. Some of my students have stated that I use the Socratic method of teaching, others that I haggle, quibble, or contend with them. What I do is learn from them while teaching them to develop and defend their own ideas. They have different backgrounds and perspectives and often different cultures. They ask questions that sometimes do not make sense to me and, on the one hand, I want to find out why they appear to come from left field and how they were formed in their mind, and on the other, I want to enable a clearer formulation of those thoughts. This exercise may either teach me new things or teach me how to better explain and illustrate by examples what I am trying to convey: either way, in the process, my students will have influenced me, my thinking, often my writings, certainly my professional choices.

What is your advice for new archivists?

 Stay open to all possibilities. When you are confused, go back to basics, look for the root of each concept or method, read the classics again. Remember that your knowledge is based on a scientific discipline that is international, but is applied in a specific and changing context: try always to reconcile the two. If you can’t, try again, read more, ask your colleagues.

Remember you are part of a tightly-nit scholarly profession. Participate actively in it by volunteering for your local and national associations, contributing to conferences, and writing for scholarly journals. Get involved in graduate archival education, as an adjunct, a guest speaker, a member of an advisory board, an internship supervisor, etc. and keep a strong tie with your alma mater. All these activities, in addition to keeping up with the literature, will also qualify you as a research collaborator: collaborating in research will keep you on the leading edge of your discipline and your profession.

As a practitioner, contribute to archival national and international listservs, and read carefully what your colleagues have to say and, sometimes, to ask: their questions are as important as other commentaries, or notifications. This of course means that you need to have a very fast delete finger and you will develop it as soon you will be able identify at a glance what is relevant to you and what is not.

When everyone agrees on an idea, or an issue becomes very popular, it is time for you to move on and try a different idea or identify another issue. Keep moving, be the one who asks new questions—no matter how outrageous, opens new doors, identifies new possibilities, creates new relationships with other professions and disciplines, and brings them to bear on the body of knowledge that we all share.

Finally, dream the impossible for archives and for your profession: it may not come true or it may not happen during your lifetime but, if or when it will, it will be because you imagined it!

“Three Questions” is an ongoing series of interviews with women who are leaders in the profession. The interviews, limited to three questions, will highlight women in the field who have made an impact, whether through their role in management, mentoring, research, or other leadership capacity. This series of interviews responds to WAR member’s interest in promoting women in leadership roles, as identified in WAR’s survey of its membership in August 2013. WAR welcomes suggestions for future interviewees – please contact us with your ideas.

Child Care Resources and Lactation Room at Annual Meeting

Upon request, SAA will put Annual Meeting registrants in contact with child care service providers. SAA will subsidize the cost for child care and will plan an appropriate amount in each year’s Annual Meeting budget:

A lactation room will be available for attendees behind the Registration desk. The room will have a refrigerator and SAA staff will ensure that anyone working the registration desk (on Level 1) will be able to direct attendees to the lactation room. Please see the below map or staff at the Registration for more information.Lactation room location

Learn More About Your WAR Candidates!

We have a great slate of candidates for the 2016 election! One candidate is running for co-chair and we have ten candidates for steering committee. Watch for the online election link from SAA to make your final selections.

Co-chair Candidates

Stacie Williams: Stacie Williams is the Learning Lab Manager at the University of Kentucky’s Special Collections Research Center, coordinating an undergraduate archives research internship, and she additionally teaches the graduate-level archives and manuscripts management course in UK’s School of Library and Information Science. She has previously worked at Tufts University’s Digital Collections and Archives, the Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, and the Lexington (Ky.) Public Library. In 2013, Williams organized a panel at SXSW about ways that information professionals can influence and engage grassroots activism on Twitter, and she has co-published on topics such as community archives, cyberracism and information literacy. She is a 2010 ALA Spectrum Scholar and a member of the 2015 Archives Leadership Institute cohort. She holds an M.S. in library science with an Archives Management concentration from Simmons College, and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. 

 Statement of Interest: I am incredibly interested in serving as co-chair on the Women Archivists Roundtable, as I find that it is nearly impossible to be an archivist without discussing, in- depth, various issues related to women, such as labor, pay, management, and historical documentation of women’s lives and contributions to our larger culture. Further, I am interested in  contributing an intersectional praxis to our work that addresses the ways in which race, class,  physical ability, and sexual identity affect how and for whom we do our jobs. I believe that serving in  a leadership role on the roundtable is the best way to advocate for the issues we face as women  archivists, and to help bring us together for the betterment of the women we document.

Steering Committee Candidates

Alexis Antracoli: I am Assistant University Archivist for Technical Services at Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library where I leads technical services operations. Previously I worked as Records Management Archivist at Drexel University and Project Archivist and Archives Assistant at the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library. I received my MSI from the University of Michigan School of Information in 2011. I am active in regional and national professional organizations, having served on SAA’s Records Management Roundtable and on several MARAC committees, and have published on web archiving and the archiving of born-digital audio visual content. In addition to women’s issues, my professional interests include archival management, preservation and description of electronic records and web archives, acquisitions outreach, and enhancing access to collections. 

 Statement of Interest: I am interested in serving on the Women Archivists Roundtable Steering Committee because I want to contribute to providing professional resources and support for women archivists. I have been impressed with the work of the WAR Roundtable in creating new opportunities to discuss issues affecting women such as pay equity, negotiation, and paid leave as well as raising awareness of women archivists. I would like build on the great work that has been done by working to create additional educational and discussion opportunities, and support women in advocating for their needs within their workplaces and the larger profession. As I have progressed in my career, I have seen that there are a variety of challenges that affect women in various stages of their archival careers. Reflecting on those challenges, I think that there is a need for mentoring opportunities designed specifically for women and open to those in all stages of their careers. Regardless of where we are in our careers, the advice and support of women who successfully navigated professional challenges previously can be a vital element of professional growth. I think WAR would be an ideal forum for the development of such a program. 

Rachel Henson: Hi! My name is Rachel Henson and I am currently an archivist at the Carl Albert Center Congressional Research and Studies Center where I archive the papers of members of Congress. I received my MLIS in Archives Management from Simmons College in 2015. During my time at Simmons I worked in a corporate library and archive at Draper Laboratory and the children’s department of the Cambridge Public Library. I also interned at the Massachusetts Archives and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library while working on my degree. Before graduate school, I worked in an academic library while obtaining my bachelor’s degree in English Literature. I’m a new professional with a fresh perspective on the archives field and I’ve got a lot of ideas that will encourage increased participation in both SAA and within the roundtable itself. In my personal life I like to play video games, play music, read and spend time with my gigantic orange cat, Mimi.

 Statement of Interest: I believe very strongly in the power of archives and the field’s importance  to human history as we save it and make it in the present day. Identity is a complex issue that I  believe archives and archivists can embody and reflect better than we are doing currently.  Promoting diversity should be a goal for this roundtable within the mission of monitoring the status  of women and promoting the participation of women at SAA and in the profession as a whole.  Social and racial justice must be core values that our community works toward and I’d like to help  begin this work on this roundtable. Women are leaders in our field and we have a chance to prove  that prioritizing diversity and equity works. Between the inclusion of other minorities in how we  address gender in the workplace and how we archive to being the leaders who advocate for our  profession out in the rest of the world, we are responsible for the direction it takes. Let’s use this  power for people of all identities!

Amanda Leinberger: My interest in archives started when I was an undergrad at Mount Holyoke College. I was researching women’s higher education and fell in love with the treasure trove of women’s lives, stories and papers at the MHC archives. From there, I went to the University of British Columbia for my Masters in Archival Studies, and am currently an archivist at the United Nations in New York. I also serve on the MHC Alumnae Association Board of Directors as a data and information management liaison. I’ve always had an interest in women’s history and spaces. In my prior life, I managed the kitchen of a drop-in center for female survival sex workers, and I volunteer with several different woman’s and LGBT organizations, including the Trevor Project. As I move further along in my archival career, I want to add my skills and labor to the advancement of women’s leadership and history. I enjoy working with professional associations, and for several years I was on the Professional Learning Committee of the Association of Canadian Archivists, and was a co-chair to the planning of several conferences during my time at UBC. 

 Statement of Interest: As a women’s college graduate and strong proponent of both women’s leadership and the advancement of spaces to highlight women’s involvement in the world. I see  the WAR as a fantastic place to not only promote women’s leadership, but also to monitor and  ensure that the archival profession is a space where women’s contributions are valued and  encouraged. Especially important is the task to “identify barriers to professional advancement” for  woman and other minorities. WAR has laid a strong framework for the profession and I would love  to continue that work.

Katie Nash: Katie Nash is the College Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at Williams College where she has been in this role since October 2014. At Williams Katie is responsible for leading the College Archives unit of Special Collections in which she oversees goal setting for the unit, works with a team of colleagues to prioritize projects, spearheads reference and research services, serves as the project manager for the institutional repository project management committee, collaborates with the library’s Head of Research Services to contribute to outreach and marketing including social media initiatives, and actively works with instruction librarians on the teaching and promotion of archival collections and primary sources. Prior to arriving at Williams, Katie was the University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at Elon University where she worked from 2005-2014. At Elon she was responsible for overall management of the department, providing instruction and reference services, participating in campus wide events and committees, project management for digital initiatives, and overall marketing and outreach. 

 Statement of Interest: I have been involved with a few SAA committee’s and roundtables for  many years. I believe it’s important to contribute back to the archives profession and by providing  service to SAA is one way of of accomplishing this goal. I’ve been involved with larger SAA  roundtables such as the College and University section, but I’d like to explore being a part of a  more intimate roundtable. I believe my background, knowledge, experience, commitment, and energy will be a good fit for this roundtable. I’d like to focus my energies on something I personally  and professionally believe in, and that’s the participation and promotion of women in the workforce  in general, but specifically the archives profession. It’s hard to make changes as an individual, but  exploring and invoking change as a group can be powerful and rewarding.

Alice Sara Prael: My name is Alice Sara Prael and I am the Digital Accessioning Archivist for Beinecke Library at Yale University. This position includes developing and implementing a centralized born digital accessioning workflow for all Yale University Libraries. I recently completed a National Digital Stewardship Residency at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, where I created a digital preservation strategy and organized the first NDSR Digital Preservation UnConference. Before that I graduated from University of Maryland with an MLS, specializing in Digital Curation. During that time I also served as a graduate assistant for Digital Projects and Initiatives at McKeldin Library. When I’m not working on digital archives I play roller derby, hike and paint. 

Statement of Interest: I would like to be a steering committee member for WAR because I’m interested in furthering the charge of women archivists in SAA. I am especially interested in contributing to the WAR blog and twitter chats as they strengthen our community of women archivists. I have been a regular contributor to blogs for both my position at NDSR and in my new  position at Beinecke Library, as well as keeping a personal blog for professional reflection. I would love to conduct interviews for the Three Questions series in the WAR blog. I am also a regular participant in twitter chats and would be thrilled to organize and contribute to this kind of dialogue.

Elizabeth Skene: Elizabeth Skene is Digital Initiatives Librarian and assistant professor at Western Carolina University where she is responsible for the institutional repository, digital preservation, data management, and digital collections. She holds an MSI from the University of Michigan in Archives and Records Management. Prior to working at WCU, Skene was Curator of Collections at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI. She is a member of the 2016 SAA annual conference program committee, a former board member of the Michigan Archival Association (2012-2014), and served on SAA’s Communication Technology Working Group (2012). She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina and enjoys hiking with her dog, cuddling with her cat, and collecting eggs from her chickens. 

Statement of Interest: The WAR roundtable plays a crucial role in facilitating awareness of  women in leadership (and the lack of), the unseen labor women perform, and the persistent gaps  in compensation. This roundtable has been invaluable in bringing these issues to the forefront and  being a leader in creating discussion and debate. I would be honored to play a role in continuing  this advocacy, both within the archival community and with our library and museum colleagues.  Advocacy has always been part of my work and I have a special interest in supporting young  female professionals, facilitating mentoring, and helping women transition into leadership roles.

Krystal Thomas: My name is Krystal Thomas and I am currently the Digital Archivist at Florida State University Libraries under the Special Collections & Archives division. I completed my MSI at the University of Michigan in 2009. Prior to FSU, I was the digital library coordinator at the Theodore Roosevelt Center in Dickinson, North Dakota. My work is a mix of digital project creation and management, supervision of the Digital Library Center here at FSU and acting as a consultant for digital archiving projects on campus. We’re also making the move more and more into born digital processing as well as web archiving. Outside of work, I read like a fiend, walk dogs at the local shelter every weekend and try to keep my sweet monster of cat from completely destroying every inch of carpet in my apartment. 

Statement of Interest: I would like to get more involved with SAA in general and I see the  Women Archivists Roundtable as a great place to start contributing. Long before I started down  the archival path, I was a women’s studies minor in undergrad so the history of women and how  they contribute to their professions and organizations has always been one that is near and dear  to my heart. I enjoy what WAR does with its blog and social media accounts and would relish the opportunity to contribute and help to grow the work the Roundtable does for women in the  profession.

Anna Trammell: I completed by MLIS in May 2015 and began in my current position in September 2015. I am the Archival Operations and Reference Specialist at the University of Illinois Archives Research Center. In this role, I answer reference requests, supervise student employees, design and teach instruction sessions, manage outreach events and social media, and work closely with the records of student organizations. I am the New Professionals Blog Editor for the Student and New Archives Professionals Roundtable and will begin as the SAA Publications Board Intern in August. 

Statement of Interest: The women of WAR are having valuable conversations about what it means to be a woman in the archives profession. As a new member of the profession, I have greatly  benefitted as a follower of WAR’s online presence which has helped me think critically about pay  inequity, workplace discrimination, and the struggle of maintaining a work life balance. In my own  work, I have aimed to highlight women in the University’s history by creating exhibits on women’s organizations, organizing a panel on women’s history, and working with donors from undergraduate  student groups focused on women’s issues. If selected as a member of the Steering Committee, I  hope to play an active role in expanding WAR’s reach by contributing to the blog and social  media. I believe the Twitter Chats are extremely useful to members and I plan to develop new  partnerships for co-sponsored chats and other activities. I also aim to propose new methods for highlighting women archivists of the past and celebrating those of the present through outreach  and by soliciting contributions for the blog. I am very excited about the work WAR is doing and  would be honored to be have the opportunity to join the leadership of this roundtable.

Sandra Varry: Sandra Varry is the Heritage Protocol & University Archivist at Florida State University where she collects, manages, and provides access to FSU’s archive and manages its History Museum. She holds an MFA in Photography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MLIS from the University of South Florida. She became a Certified Archivist in 2013 and Digital Archives Specialist in 2014. She is Immediate Past President of the Society of Florida Archivists and is currently the Society of American Archivists’ Key Contact for Florida. 

Statement of Interest: Since joining WAR I have found the group to be welcoming, supportive, and engaging. As a steering committee member I hope to contribute to activities that increase the  dialogue and understanding surrounding the issues women face in the archives profession. I feel I  can be an asset to the roundtable in continuing to increase outreach and engagement, and in  promoting an environment where women can advance and flourish in the profession.

Jona Whipple: My name is Jona Whipple and I am the Archivist at the Chicago-Kent College of Law Library. I received a Master of Library Science with a specialization in Archives from San Jose State University, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. In my current position, I oversee and manage the entirety of archival collections, and manage a flourishing digitization program. My subject focus is legal history, including the inspiring history of women in the law profession. I have enjoyed five years of experience in my current position, where I have devoted my attention to creating exhibits, digital collections, and written materials to educate the legal community on the stories of early women lawyers and the difficulties they faced. 

Statement of Interest: I have always been interested in women’s history, in particular, women’s  struggles for equality in the workplace. For these reasons, I am passionate about advancing  women’s voices in the archival field. More than anything, I want to give women archivists the  opportunity to teach and learn from each other. I want to be involved in steering the Women Archivists Roundtable because I would be proud to be able to serve and give back to a  community that has provided me with so much insight in my career. I hope to be instrumental in fulfilling current and future needs of women archivists and further enhance the positive  atmosphere within the organization.

Identifying and Crushing Barriers, Women’s History, and Workplace Inclusion: The National Archives’ Women’s Affinity Group

Guest post by Elizabeth Dinschel

The country, or mostly women, are buzzing about the wage gap, but does the gap exist in fields dominated by women such as Museums, Archives, or Libraries? Maybe not in the way you think, but the gap exists. I founded the Women’s Affinity Group (WAG) at the National Archives and Records Administration to address some of the obvious barriers, highlight the important contributions women have made to history through our collections, and provide inclusive activities to help women who may be struggling in the workplace. It is worthy of note that the executives and senior level staff have been abundantly supportive of the Women’s Affinity Group and all affinity groups across NARA. In fact, the first people I discussed the affinity group with were Debra Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States, and Maria Stanwich, Chief of Staff, who encouraged me to start the affinity group. I had that conversation with Maria and Deb in 2013, but WAG was not officially chartered until December 2015.

The National Archives uses a database called Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS) to collect and track all kinds of NARA data. Shortly after I started working for NARA, I was introduced to the wonders of PMRS. I am kind of a statistics geek, so I dug into the numbers and what I found was alarming. Number one – even though women made up more than half of the workforce (51% to be exact), we did not even make up half of the executive positions (27% to be exact). In fact, women stacked up at one pay level (the glass ceiling) and rapidly decline in pay grades after that. Why? I wish I knew. The pay grade where women stack up feeds into management, so there is not a pipeline issue. I know this is complicated by several factors, but no one could seem to place their finger on why this was happening, so NARA is working on a barrier analysis to identify the root causes.

Number two – women were leaving NARA and retention of female employees is 2-3% below male employees. On the issue of retention, most people assume, falsely, that women leave their jobs to start or tend to families. They are wrong. But for the group of women who do have children and return to the workforce, they may be faced with challenges where they are discriminated against and not protected by FMLA. The American Association of State and Local History just posted a blog about the experience of motherhood in small museums. Fortunately, federal employees do enjoy FMLA leave, but retention is a concern, of course. For the women we fear are leaving for lack of opportunity, WAG started working with Learning and Development to advertise career advancement trainings such as- resume writing, applying for jobs, building Individual Development Plans (IDP), etc. We are also committed to advertising leadership training opportunities and providing spaces for women to discuss the unique difficulties or challenges they face.

One of the issues women are faced with is the lack of historical recognition of the accomplishments of women. Since most of us are, in some way, public historians, this is a big blow to our professions. In an effort to remedy that, the Women’s Affinity Group will be revamping the women’s sections of the NARA webpages, hosting social media events like Wikipedia edit-a-thons (our social media team told me that 90% of Wikipedia contributors are male and they recognize there is a gender gap in contributions. Wikipedia knows it). WAG will be reaching out across the country to bring NARA’s records of the Suffrage Movement and the centennial of the 19th Amendment to as many people as possible as well. Fortunately we can help bring the story of women to the country through NARA’s rich collections.

Lastly, WAG is launching some activities across NARA to promote inclusion. Recently, we launched a quarterly book club where members of WAG, all genders, select a book and then we hold a discussion with Debra Wall, the Deputy Archivist of the United States. WAG members are encouraged to start clubs at their respective sites and discuss the book on our employee pages. Our first book selection was, Wendy McClure, The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of the Little House on the Prairie. We have discussed clothing swaps and mentorships, but everything is in its infancy.

We know the mountain is steep and things will not change overnight, but we will encourage our colleagues to keep applying for management positions, take advantage of professional development opportunities, and to lean on each other because it is not just about “leaning in.” After all, Madeleine Albright said, “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” so we will make sure we help each other take credit for our work and ideas and we will always take our seat at the table.

Elizabeth Dinschel is a historian and the founder and Chair of the Women’s Affinity Group for the National Archives and Records Administration. She is currently the Education Specialist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. Formerly, she was the Oral History and Education Coordinator for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum. All views expressed in this blog post are that of Elizabeth Dinschel and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Archives and Records Administration or the United States Government.