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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Women in Animation: Numbers on the Rise

Written by ACR StaffMarch 27, 2017
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Though women hold just 23.2% of union jobs in the animation industry, over the years there has been a steady increase in the number of women employed in animation. According to the The Animation Guild, women held 20.6% of union jobs fewer than two years ago. Keep in mind that many animators work independently too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the "Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers" industry has the second highest concentration of employment for animators and multimedia artists. This means figures for women working in animation could be higher. 

When it comes to animation programs across the U.S., female enrollment has skyrocketed. When CalArts debuted its character animation program over four decades ago, it had just two female students. Today, women make up 71% of the animation student body. The school has seen an increase in female enrollment every year since 2010. And then there’s the UCLA’s master’s program in animation, which is around 68% women. Head down to Florida to Ringling College of Art and Design, where the school’s computer animation program is nearly 70% women. 

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Other schools saw tremendous growth in the female animation student body between 2010 and 2014. According to the Los Angeles Times, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) grew its female animation student body by 82% between 2010 and 2014. The number of male students grew by just 11%. And at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, female enrollment in animation grew by about 20% during the same period. 

So why are women flocking to animation school? For starters, more women in general are going to college. According to the Education Advisory Board, women represent 57% of college students across the U.S. Another reason, says Tom Sito, Chairman of USC's Animation Division, is “successful animated films with strong female characters, such as Frozen and Brave have played a role.” Some say that technology has played the biggest role of all. In a Los Angeles Times article, Brooke Keesling, Animation Talent Development Director at Disney TV, says “the gender-neutral Internet — where users on social media often go by androgynous handles — has had a major effect on young women's ambitions.” 

Keesling, who also teaches at CalArts, explains, "people can share their artwork on Tumblr and Vimeo and YouTube and DeviantArt and see that it's actually a thing that a lot of people are interested in, not just men." Besides interacting online “in ways they couldn’t before,” CalArts Animation director Maija Burnett says, people “can contribute and post their own fan art … and then network and talk to each other about it." 

And let’s not forget about the Oscars, which have been a source of inspiration for aspiring female animators around the world. In 2013, Brenda Chapman became the first woman to win an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature Film category for Brave. A year later, Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. That same year, Kristine Belson was nominated for The Croods (with Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco) for Best Animated Feature Film, and Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim were nominated for the short animated film Get a Horse! A year earlier, Sue Goffe (with Grant Orchard) was nominated for A Morning Stroll for Short Film (Animated), and Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby were nominated for their animated short Wild Life. Jennifer Yuh Nelson was nominated for Kung Fu Panda 2 in the Best Animated Feature Film category. 

In 2015, four women were nominated for animation Oscars. Bonnie Arnold (with Dean DeBlois) was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for How To Train Your Dragon 2. In the Best Short Film (Animated) category, Kristina Reed was nominated for Feast (with Patrick Osborne), Torill Kove was nominated for Me and My Moulton, and Daisy Jacobs was nominated for The Bigger Picture (with Christopher Hees). Kristina Reed won the Oscar for Feast

In 2016, Rosa Tran’s Anomalisa was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (with Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson), and Nicole Grindle (with Sanjay Patel) was nominated for Best Short Film (Animated) for Sanjay’s Super Team. And just last year, Arianne Sutner (with Travis Knight) was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for Kubo and the Two Strings. Osnat Shurer (with John Musker and Ron Clements) was nominated for the animated feature Moana and Cara Speller (with Robert Valley) was nominated for Best Short Film (Animated) for Pear Cider and Cigarettes


"Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences." Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2016, 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 

"Female Animators Break Down Cartoon-women Stereotypes." The Washington Times. The Washington Times, 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 

"Gender Gap: Women Represent 57% of College Students-but Just 26% of School Leaders." Education Advisory Board, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 

"Multimedia Artists and Animators." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor, 30 Mar. 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 

Robb, David. "Women Make Small Gains In Animation Industry But Still Hold Just 23% Of Union Jobs." Penske Business Media, LLC., 27 Dec. 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 

The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE. The Animation Guild, 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 

Vankin, Deborah. "Animation: At CalArts and Elsewhere, More Women Are Entering the Picture." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 25 May 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.