Women in Animation Helps Young Female Artists Find Place in the Biz

Animation production didn’t skip a beat during the past year, and that’s great news for students aspiring to join the globally dynamic industry.

Yet while some 60% of animation students are female — with some institutes of higher education saying that their numbers are higher, even up to 72% — just 20% of animation creatives are women. Of that group, 10% are writers-directors, 17% are writers and 21% work in art and design.

These stats were compiled by Women in Animation (WIA), which is fighting for more inclusiveness in the business, most visibly through its 50/50 by 2025 initiative, but more importantly, it’s getting buy-in at the student level.

“It was really obvious that that transition from school to studio was where things were broken,” says WIA president Marge Dean. “That was the point we were like, we will always have a student program. We will always have to deal with this because that’s the heart of where things break down.”

Right now, WIA has 15 student clubs at universities across North America, and runs a scholarship program, student showcase — regardless of gender — and a robust mentorship program.

Dean says besides advocacy at events including the Annecy Animation Festival, the org focuses on talent development.

“We have lots of programs, and now virtual programs, that either teach basic skills or how to get into the industry and how to sustain [a career] in the industry,” she says. “And a big part of our talent development program, which is probably our most successful program, is the mentoring program. We’ve mentored or facilitated the mentoring of over a thousand women since we’ve been doing this. Mentorship is key. That’s going to make a difference.”

With the 50/50 goal in mind, WIA is targeting high-schoolers, showing them paths into the animation business that don’t necessarily mean a four-year college degree.

“One of the things that we also recognize is that going to a four-year program is a very expensive endeavor, right?,” says Dean. “So we want full representation and diversity in our workplace. We do need to focus on how to get underrepresented girls and people into the workplace.”

To that end, WIA is developing a program that will launch in the fall to address this issue, although details are still under wraps. It’s also working with software companies such as Blender to get tools to kids. “We need to democratize our business, open sources and use software as a key essential so that high school students have accessibility.”

Producer Jinko Gotoh  (“Klaus”) and WIA VP says that through the student organizations on campus, the org is also working to build an educators’ network, and a goal is to grow the student clubs exponentially over the next year or so, even targeting internationally based schools.

Hsiang Chin-Moe, WIA chair of education and chair of BFA animation at New York’s School of Visual Arts, says the org works with the CEOs of companies and recruiters to help get the student talent in front of the right decision-makers, “making sure that they are also aligned with our goal 50/50 by 2025, because they’re the ones making the decisions or at least channeling all the talent into the proper pipeline.”

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