Stacy L. Smith

Despite increased awareness of issues of gender inequality in entertainment, women continue to struggle to reach key roles in the animation industry. According to a new survey from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, just 3% of the directors of animated films made in the last 12 years have been women, and only 13% of popular animated TV programs from last year were directed by women.

Conducted in partnership with Women in Animation, and presented this morning by Dr. Stacy L. Smith at the Women in Animation World Summit in Annecy, France, the survey found that women have gained some ground in animation, but still come nowhere near parity with their male counterparts.

For example, the survey found that 37% of animated film producers over the last 12 years have been women, compared to just 15% of producers on live-action films. But that increase in representation has not led to increases in women taking the directorial reins, nor does it seem to be reflected below the line. Looking at 52 “top” animated films from the last five years, the study found women held 7% of head-of-story positions, 8% of head-of-animation positions, and 14% of art director positions.

The situation is even worse for women of color, who made up a mere 5% of animated film producers. As for directors, the study found just one Asian female film director and three Asian female TV directors. No other women from underrepresented racial or ethnic backgrounds were discovered in that position.

Women Below the Line in Top Animated TV Series
  Women Women
of Color
Story Editor 28% 1%
Head of Editing 18% 4%
Animation Director 16% 8%
Lead Animator 20% 13%
Lead Character Designer 24% 7%
Lead Storyboard Artist 11% 3%
Total 19% 7%

Source: Dr. Stacy L. Smith/Women in Animation/USC Annenberg

The survey gathered information by studying on-screen credits to determine the personnel in various roles on films and TV series.

“One sentiment that emerged from the qualitative responses was a sense of distrust and skepticism from animation industry members about current efforts surrounding inclusion,” said Dr. Katherine Pieper, one of the study’s authors, in a prepared statement. “As organizations and individuals grapple with how to support and extend the careers of women in the industry, including women from all backgrounds and communities, the goal must be to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging and that men and women are committed to target inclusion goals and working collectively toward achieving them.”

To that end, Women in Animation is asking members of the animation industry to sign a “50/50” pledge aimed at reaching gender equality in animation by 2025.

The complete survey, including a concluding section featuring recommendations for increasing equality and inclusivity in animation, is available for download from USC Annenberg.

USC Annenberg: