International Women’s Day Panel 2019 | #balanceforbetter

The campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter putting the spotlight directly on the question, ‘how can we help forge a more gender-balanced world?’

In response, Animated Women UK, in collaboration with ACCESS:VFX and Animation UK, hosted a panel of representative speakers to discuss the key issues of gender imbalance within the Animation and VFX industries.

The sold out event took place at The Mill with over 100 people in attendance, including professionals, early career starters and students. The energetic atmosphere of the audience clearly highlighted the importance of the topic to be addressed.

The Panel

  • Noreen Connolly – MD, Beam
  • Natalie Llewellyn – Head of Development, Jellyfish
  • Tom Box – Co-founder, Blue Zoo
  • Claire Michaud – Lighting Supervisor, Framestore
  • Simon Hughes – Creative Director / VFX Supervisor, Union
  • Ross Urien – Creative Director, The Mill
  • Helen Piercy – AWUK Board Education Advisor / Animation Lecturer at University of Norwich

Chaired by IBC’s Alana Foster, the opening question asked was ‘why is animation & VFX equality and inclusion important?’ The panel agreed that the creative industries need diverse talent in order to generate a range of animation and VFX projects for a wider audience. Ross Urien noted that the creative industry is driven by original ideas, so diversity is vitally important as good ideas don’t come from one place.

Why is the animation sector statistically doing better than VFX in terms of gender balance?

The panel were asked why pursuing a career in animation had a significantly larger draw for women than VFX? Claire Michaud explained that VFX heavy blockbusters have traditionally been targeted at boys with animated content seemingly aimed more towards girls. Tom Box added that the issue could also be about accessibility as we tend to be exposed to animation from a younger age, whereas VFX is more of a hidden art form and much of the effects work is invisible.

Natalie added that the understanding of animation and VFX as viable career options needs much more awareness. This ‘discoverability’ element is key and further work needs to be done to educate children, teachers and parents. Fantastic initiatives, such as ACCESS:VFX and STEAM events are helping to spread awareness in schools of the potential career paths into these industries.

How can we attract and retain women working in the industry?

The panel reflected on the perception that animation is more creative than VFX, therefore more feminine, ergo attracting more women to work in the sector. This view potentially starts with representation and how an interest in working in animation and VFX is generated.

It was agreed that attracting & retaining women into the industry needs better support, beginning at an educational level and throughout career progression. Mentorships are a key factor in career development, as Noreen noted that  at The Mill everyone has a mentor. “t’s really important to develop people”. Taking the initiative and reaching out to someone you admire can also be a good strategy for finding a potential mentor. Networks and industry recognised schemes, such as Animated Women UK’s Helen North Achieve Programme, are also helping to bring women in the creative community together to access advice.

Overall, the panel were very positive on the outlook for a gender balanced industry, however, it is clear that there is more work to be done to improve the current diversity statistics in the animation and vfx industries. Animated Women UK are committed to working towards a #BalanceforBetter future, continuing our mission to support women from all backgrounds of the industry at every stage in their career.

Helen Piercy is AWUK’s Education Advisor.

 

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