Empowering Women in Animation
Women in Animation (WIA) is a non-profit organization with the purpose of furthering, promoting, and supporting female animators in the art, science, and business of animation. WIA has chapters in Austin, San Francisco, New York City, Montreal, Vancouver, and is headquartered in Los Angeles.
WIA’s President is Margaret Dean, an Emmy-Award winner known for building studios and animation pipelines. Dean has been responsible for the design or re-design of several studios large and small, including Columbia-TriStar TV, Warner Bros. Animation, Mattel’s Playground Production, Omation (Steve Oedekerk), Technicolor Animation, and Wildbrain Entertainment. Dean is the Head of Studio for Crunchyroll, the world’s most popular anime brand.
Thanks to the efforts of WIA, all the major studios have diversity & inclusion programs that are empowering women. Read on to learn about the exciting and important work that this organization is doing!
How would you describe WIA’s mission?
WIA is the only organization dedicated to advancing women and non-binary people in the field of animation. We envision a world where we all share equally in the creation, production, and rewards of animation, and WIA provides resources and connections to make it happen. We want to open the doors of the animation industry to expand and diversify the talent pool of storytellers and artists. We recognize that the more diverse and inclusive our industry is, the culturally richer and more lucrative our entertainment will be. WIA, at its core, is about representation.
How have you observed women’s roles in Animation change over the years?
The number of women working in animation has increased at a steady pace over the last 10 years. We saw a huge increase in women studying animation in schools. About 10 years ago, the student body crossed the 50% line where more than half of the students studying animation were female. But today they still hold less than 30% of the creative jobs in the industry. This is the primary reason that Women in Animation exists. In 2015 we made a call to action: 50-50 by 2025. We want to see half of the creative roles in animation to be held by women.
Today, women hold only 20% of the creative roles in animation. WIA wants to make it 50/50 by 2025. Learn more.
What is one major challenge women still face today in the Animation Industry and why do you think that is?
The major challenge that women face is getting hired (see above answer) and advancing into leadership. There are many factors that are behind the challenges that women face. Part of it is systemic and another part is internal issues with women themselves. Putting production teams together is about mitigating risk; people hire people that they know and trust. So the same people get hired over and over again. It’s very difficult to get doors to open. And often if women make it into entry-level positions, they stay stuck there. This is where our unconscious biases come in. Women are just not seen as leaders or creative thinkers.
What are some steps Animation studios and companies can take to ensure gender equality?
Studios need to decide that they are committed to hiring women, with that commitment they will make the extra effort to find women and take a chance on new voices. There is a surplus of great female talent out there. They are the biggest untapped resource in animation. Studios also need to create a welcoming and safe environment for women. This means unconscious bias and sensitivity training of their studio leadership. And finally, women need to be supported on a career path; with advancement opportunities.
Do you have any words of advice to share with women looking to break into the industry?
- Continue to work at being better at the job that you want. It’s critical that you be the best whatever you want to be.
- Get your work out there! It’s important to make yourself as visible as possible. Using a platform like ArtStation is a great way to reach a large constituency of recruiters, producers, and hiring managers.
- Build a network or community. Start with your peers and grow from there. It is through your network that you will get jobs, but more importantly where you will get support when times get tough. Women in Animation is a great pre-built community that you can be a part of.
- Finally, you need to make a decision that working in animation is what you want and that you intend to do it. Your intention and commitment will get you through periods of doubt and insecurity.
Please share any upcoming activities or news WIA is organizing.
Women in Animation always has a lot of exciting programs in the pipeline! For instance, March 9th, is Barbie’s birthday and we plan to celebrate by hosting a panel with some of the biggest names at Mattel while exploring how the Barbie Vlog and current Barbie character were created. This event is open to the public and you can register now. We invite everyone to subscribe to our free email list and follow us on social media wia.animation (FB+IG) to stay in the loop to all our upcoming programs. We hope to see some fresh faces in the virtual crowd!
Article originally published December 2020 and updated March 7th, 2021.
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