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Women in Animated Films Make Up Only 17% of Lead Characters

Female producers and executives in animation exceed those in live action, report from USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative says

Only 17% of 120 recent animated films featured female characters as the lead or co-lead, and only 39% of 100 recent animated TV series featured a largely female cast, according to a new report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

The report, titled “Increasing Inclusion in Animation: Investing Opportunities, Challenges, and the Classroom to the C-Suite Pipeline,” also noted a major gender gap between female directors on film and TV in animation, as well as women in below-the-line roles. Meanwhile, women of color are even more marginalized in creative and leadership roles in animation, according to the report.

Among female directors in animation, only 3% of film directors were women, and only 13% of TV episode directors were women, while just 1% and 2% respectively were women of color. Only 17% of women had Created by or Developed by credits in animated series. The report also noted that progress for women moving up the pipeline in film stalls before they can become directors.

“This study validates what we have known all along, that women are a hugely untapped creative resource in the animation industry,” Marge Dean, president of Women in Animation, said in a statement. “Now that we have a greater understanding of how the numbers fall into place and what solutions may help rectify this deficiency, we can take bigger strides towards our goal of 50-50 by 2025.”

However, the report did note positive strides in other areas — 37% of all producers of animated films were women compared to just 15% of producers for live action feature films, and 5% of those women in animated films were women of color, compared to just 1% in live action. Further, more women in animation hold executive ranks across major film and TV animation companies. Exactly half of the President and C-level executives at film companies are women, according to the report.

“Another area in which we see some progress is with female producers of animated films,” Dr. Stacy Smith, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement. “In the last 12 years, 37% of producers of animated movies were women, while for live action films, the figure was 15%. The proportion of women in this leadership role in animation, and the progress made in the last decade indicates that there are spaces where the industry is taking inclusion seriously and affecting change. However, only 5% of producers of animated films and 1% of live action producers were women of color. The movie industry is completely out of step with the audience in this regard.”

Finally, another positive trend indicated that there’s a robust pipeline of female filmmakers directing animated short films at film festivals, including Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, the New York Film Festival and Telluride, with over 60% of women directing the animated shorts to screen there.

“One sentiment that emerged from the qualitative responses was a sense of distrust and skepticism from animation industry members about current efforts surrounding inclusion,” Dr. Katherine Pieper, one of the study authors, said in a 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.”

Read the full report here.