For the last few months, there have been reports about how sexual harassment has been pervasive in industries where men hold a great deal of power. Most people are not surprised when politicians are caught up in these types of activities because we do not hold these people in high regard.
Stories out of the entertainment industry should not be surprising either. It is a system where the “talent,” the faces you see on the television or movie screen, are treated better (or worse) than spoiled children. When I worked for NBC in the early 1990s, I saw first-hand how the talent could do no wrong while their behinds were kissed by the production staff. This created an air of omnipotence that also lead to people being treated badly, something I witnessed regularly.
While there are bad actors in every industry, there seems to be a pattern in male-dominated industries. This is why there is an emphasis on teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to girls in order to break the stereotypes. In fact, go to the website of almost any small tech company and look at the list of employees. Not only are most of the employees male, most are white, and what they call diversity includes a male from India or Taiwan. The women listed are in support roles and have no technical responsibility. There are also very few people over 40 years old in most of those companies.
Numismatics is no better. Although the current executive director of the American Numismatic Association is a woman and there quite a few women helping to support the ANA in Colorado Springs, it is not often you see a woman serve on the ANA Board of Governors. The last one was Laura Sperber. While I have disagreed with Sperber, I respect the fact that not only she is a successful business person and had the wherewithal to run for the Board of Governors.
The last time a woman ran for ANA President was in 2009 when Patti Finner, whom I endorsed, lost to Cliff Mishler.
Go to any coin show and count the number of women and minorities behind the tables. A few small shows I have attended were only represented by older white men. At the recent Baltimore Expo although there were a few women, the only one I encountered is one I regularly see who carries foreign currency who is not a native of the United States.
These attitudes are not sustainable for the hobby and society.
Look at the backlash that came when it was announced that the Department of the Treasury wanted to change the portrait on the $20 note to a woman. She would replace Andrew Jackson who ignored treaties and supported the Indian Removal Act that led to the Trail of Tears, an action that is a stain on the nation’s history. There was opposition to these policies during that time. But as Senator William L. Marcy (D-NY) said in defense of Jackson, “To the victor belong the spoils.” One of those spoils is that they get to write the history books and chose figures like Jackson to (dis)honor currency.
But how many people in the numismatic industry stood up for the decision? There were some defenders, but overall there was a deafening silence.
I have complained that the hobby is too white, male, and over the age of 50. I do not think this is sustainable in a changing world, says your blogger who is white, male and over the age of 50. And that can be evident by walking the bourse floor of any coin show.
The old boys club should stop being old and a club of boys. Embracing diversity will only help the hobby because it will bring in new people and new ideas.
Young Numismatist programs help but they should not be the only focus. There is a lack of programs to keep the YN interested and engaged after no longer being YNs. Both male and female YNs become disengaged as they reach young adulthood. I know it is a problem and I keep bringing this up as an issue, it is another time where the silence as to what can be done is defening!
Just because that is the way it has been does not mean it will be the same in the future.
The hobby needs diversity of all types. We need to not only find a way to attract more hobbyists under 50 years old, women, and non-caucasions.
As society grapples with the news about the dozens of men that have been accused of being general pigs and the far too many more that are not associated with the media and are not reported, this hobby has to look at itself and wonder why the bourse floor looks like an old boys club and is that sustainable.
Maybe it is time for the numismatic-related industries to be a leader and show how we can set the stereotypes aside and encourage diversity. Or as the business adage suggests: Diversify or Die!