On the website ladyanimators.blogspot.com Janel Drewis interviews women working in animation today. One of the questions she asks them is:
"Generally speaking, the animation world is still heavily male dominated. Why do you think that is?"
I complied the responses of 12 of the 13 women she interviewed. (She did not include this question in one of the interviews) I have not altered the responses in any way.
I think it's changing drastically. At my last job it seemed like out of all the animators, almost half were women, which was so great to see! I was the only girl in my graduating class so I'm glad it seems like it's becoming more common to have women animators.
I think with women taking the helm on animated movies and TV shows, like Jennifer Lee, Brenda Chapman, Rebecca Sugar and Natasha Allegri just to name a few, are really paving the way to make this a more gender-equal industry.
Rebecca Perez - none
This is such a complex question if you get into it. I think it has a lot to do with a stigma that art that is "too feminine" isn't going to appeal to a wide enough audience. It's like how in society, it's far more acceptable for women to wear men's clothes than it is for men to wear women's clothes. Men have been raised to shy away from anything they feel will demasculate them, and I think society tends to assume art produced my female artists would do that.
Also, most directors are still men. And when there's a man leading the vision for a project, it's likely that men's art will probably appeal more to him. BUT THAT'S KIND OF A GUESS. I think this gets pretty political, and is deep-rooted far beyond the animation industry. I'm really fortunate to work at a company that's really unbiased in that regard. We're still outnumbered, but not by much, and my coworkers and directors are really open when we propose more female characters in our work to balance the cast.
In 2009 and 2010 you were voted one of Wired Magazine's "Sexiest Geeks". While flattering in a way, there is a question of what it means in the largely male-dominated industry of animation, and "geek culture" in general, to be a woman and be voted a "sexy" anything. How did you react when you found out you were on the list?
My first reaction was concern, and panic, as I wasn’t sure how something like that would be perceived. After learning a little more about it, I do appreciate that it is in a “geeks” category and that part of the “Sexiest Geeks” thing is that you bring something to the table as a geek. As a girl I appreciate that there are some people that perceive me as someone that is considered attractive. But mostly I consider it, not necessarily degrading, but perhaps it might be best to say that I fear that it might discredit me. I work really hard at what I do and I have to fight against the first impression of my physical appearance. As an artistic trainer in a male dominated industry, it’s hard walking into a room of male animators when you’re 5’2” and have a girly voice and you are expected to impart knowledge as a mentor.
When I started as a trainer and consultant, I was in my early/mid twenties, most animators that I worked with were older than me, or at the very least the same age. So it was very intimidating, and I realized fast that I had to take charge when I walked in the room to be taken seriously. I found out in a workshop once that people make judgements within 1.7 seconds of their initial impression of you, or something like that. People would respond differently if you were a middle aged man walking into a room as an authority. So when I saw the Wired Magazine results, the first thought that came into my mind, was that it would affect how people perceive me in a professional way and discredit what I have built. I want to be remembered for my art and contributions.
To expand on that a bit, while it's not the "boy's club" that it once was, the animation industry still has more men than women. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure. I found that in 2D there were more women in clean up or visual development than in the animation department itself, though at Disney there were a lot of talented female animators on the floor. At every other studio I’ve worked at though, if I wasn’t the only female animator, there were only two of us. I don’t know why that is. There are a lot of women in the industry, but just not a lot in the actual position of animator. I’ve never experienced any sexism or discrimination as far as hiring goes, it’s just your work that gets you in. But it is more male dominated. I don’t know if it’s a subject for social studies, at least in my generation, like how a lot of girls weren’t as into video games or comics in general. I went to an all girls school, and I think I was one of the only girls in my class that liked to read comics.
That's a pretty tough question, and not something that I've heard discussions about much. In my high school art class, there were very few males compared to female, yet when I went to Sheridan, the classes were split a bit more evenly. And then now in the industry, it seems a little more apparent that there aren't as many females in animation. I think it's changing though, most change happens slowly. Especially in animation, there's only so many positions and there are a lot of people who stay put in the studios that they're at, and if studios tend to hire people with experience anyway, those same people are going to be filling those positions.
I think when we learn about animation in schools or from books, generally a lot of focus is put on the great men of animation. This probably gives the industry the appearance of being male domimated, when actually, in my experience, there are plenty of female animators (especially at JibJab). Perhaps if we start talking more about contemporary woman animators at schools, and have excellent blogs like this, we will see that appearance change and make the industry even more accessible to young girls considering it as a career.
Speaking of women and media, has everyone seen this animation for "See Jane"? So good!
Hmm, well when I went to school, we had about half women in our year...I think the big difficulty is that it's an industry where you really need to know people. Because it's already a "boys club" (though I think it's changing!), it's easy for people to get their friends in. As long as your friendly, you should be ok in getting a job. It's moving up that's hard, there are very few female directors and show creators that we have to look up to (it's changing though!) It's easy to think that you'll never be able to move up. The company I work for has quite a few women though, and I think you see a lot of women in vis dev and other design fields.
From my experiences so far, I’ve actually been surrounded by a pretty equal number of ladies-to-men, both at school, at internships and at work. But at school it was a little unusual to meet a girl who actually liked animating and wanted to be an animator, specifically. Many ladies I know are drawn to character design, story and visual development instead.
Animation did start out a a male-dominated field, like many careers. A generation or two ago, ladies stayed home and raised the family. Well, society is pretty different now, and in the right situation I believe anyone can get just about any job if they work hard enough to get it. So maybe this has opened the doors for more ladies to step in. Actors can be famous and talented no matter what gender they are; same is true for animators!
I do notice that I am outnumbered, haha. I think this has to do with many things. It's not just animation, but in society, in the past women could only do certain types of jobs. But this is changing in all professions, including animation.
In the past, women were not allowed to be animators, I've seen rejection letters sent to women in the past from studios saying that they could not apply as an animator but could only be considered for ink and paint work. Also, in animation, people tend to hire people they know. So men usually know and are friends with other men and so those are who got hired. And perhaps also, women still have more pressure to give up work to take care of the family more so than men do.
I certainly think there will continue to be more female animators. In my experience in animation, everyone is completely supportive of talented artists and do not care if you are a woman or a man. I have also never seen any animator being treated differently because of who they are and that is great.
I don’t have any one reason why the industry is largely dominated by males. I honestly never noticed until much later on. I was never discouraged from pursuing this career because I’m female, and I’ve never had a moment where I’ve felt self-conscious about it either. At CalArts at least, the scale is evening out where it’s almost 50/50 and there’s a lot of support for female artists.
Film animation can be very competitive and I think women respond better to a more collaborative environment. Also, in my experience, it seems like some men simply feel more comfortable working with other men. This is certainly a minority, though, and I don't let it bother me. I work with a great group of men and women who respect each other and that is what's important.
That's a very good question that I have no real answer for. One argument is that since women weren't allowed to be animators until more recently, we have a lot of catching up to do. However, I generally take most problems with society and blame the schooling system. Girls in elementary school are known to perform lower in math and science and higher in language and history. This is clearly due to lack of support rather than lack of ability. Perhaps if young girls were encouraged to be more technical at an early age there would be a stronger balance between the genders in technical fields, such as engineering and computer graphics. I see that there are a lot of lady animation students out there, so this is a great sign that things can turn around. Come on ladies, work hard and don't give up!
I think it's only now becoming a little more mainstream as far as a viable option as a career. As I mentioned when I first started, there were very few schools that taught animation. WAY back then (and I'm dating myself considerably), the internet wasn't invented yet, so learning online wasn't an option.
If we think back 30 or 40 years, females weren't that common in positions that we take for granted today as being more gender balanced - doctor, lawyer, police, etc. Women were found more typically in care-taker or teacher positions. But over time, it becomes more balanced out. I think that being a relatively 'newly exposed career option', animation is just delayed and will catch up soon.