On the Upswing

women-in-animation-150

Under co-presidents Kristy Scanlan and Marge Dean, the revamped Women in Animation has seen unprecedented growth.

It’s been 20 years since Women in Animation was founded with a vision of “helping women share fully in the creation, production and rewards of animation.” The organization has had its ups and downs over the years, but rarely has it seen a boom in interest like it has since Marge Dean and Kristy Scanlan took over in fall 2013 as co-presidents.

The group’s membership has, since then, shot up from 120 active members to more than 800. WIA chapters have popped up in 10 cities, with more showing interest. And with women making up at least half if not more of the students in art and animation schools, the future holds tremendous potential for WIA to grow and work toward making its vision a reality.

Scanlan, VP of business development, animation & games at Technicolor, says she and Dean, director of production for Mattel’s Playground Productions, were approached to take over running WIA in the fall of 2012, and took their time figuring out what they wanted to do before they took over.

“One of the things that we heard a lot was that people wanted an elevated profile,” says Scanlan. “I think that a lot of people see the group of women we put together on our board of directors and our advisers and our committees, and they want to get involved because they want to get to know those women.”

The group’s mission statement is to bring “together a global community of animation professionals to empower and support women in the art, science and business of animation by increasing access to resources, creating opportunities for education, encouraging strong connections between individuals, and inspiring excellence.” That includes five areas of focus: awareness, advocacy, networking, community and scholarship.

Community is a key component for many women who join the group, Scanlan says. With women comprising 18 percent to 20 percent of the creative work force for animation, many are in situations where they work almost exclusively with men.

WIA has put on a series of well-attended events and launched a pilot mentoring program that drew 140 applicants for eight positions. Scanlan says the response was so positive that the group had 40 to 50 women interested in being mentors for the six-month program. “We’re gathering information to see how that’s working out and then we’ll kind of roll out the mentoring program in a bigger way in 2015,” Scanlan says.

A big part of the group’s growth has come abroad, with WIA groups popping up in about 10 cities around the world, with more interested in forming. Current chapters include Dublin, Montreal, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and Pune, India.

Influx of talent

One of the key issues facing the group is the rising number of women attending art schools and studying animation as a career. Current classes at top animation programs are at least 50 percent female with some as high as 75 percent female. The group sees it as important to help move the needle from the 18 to 20 percent rate of women employed in the animation creative work force to 50 percent.

“I think the perception is that things have improved, but when you look at the percentages — not only at female creators and people working in the business, but also female voices represented on screen and female characters represented on screen — the percentages are quite low,” Scanlan says.

WIA as group speculates the possible reasons for this disconnect constantly, Scanlan says, with few easy answers. “Why are they not getting the jobs? That’s what we’re looking at. That’s what we’re trying to fix. We’re trying to encourage women to support other women and give other women a break, and we’re also trying to encourage men to support women.”

And with women’s issues prominent in the zeitgeist, Scanlan says now is an ideal time to grow the group, discuss its goals and push toward reaching them. “Anyone that believes in our vision and mission statement can join the organization; it doesn’t have to just be women, it doesn’t have to just be people who exclusively work in animation,” she says.

“We’re talking to a lot of people who work in visual effects and in video games and I’m talking to theme park people, too, so we’re really trying to expand our reach and build our membership base into a powerhouse global organization.”

For more information on Women in Animation, visit its website at www.womeninanimation.org.

(from left) Kristy Scanlan and Marge Dean

(from left) Kristy Scanlan and Marge Dean

Marge Dean

Marge Dean