Is there sexual discrimination in the animation sector?

I’ve been thinking about this issue for a long time. Is there sexual discrimination in the animation sector?

It’s a subject that raised quite a lot of controversy in a talk at 3D Wire 3 years ago, where they talked about the difficulty of incorporating young people into the world of work. Some women attending the talk, in their turn to speak, denounced the lack of female talent in animation studios and this led to the existing salary gap in the animation sector.

Brave, a Pixar film in which there is no love relationship and the main character runs away from being a princess. In fact, co-director Brenda Chapman had her ups and downs with Disney when the studio wanted to turn Brave into a little princess.

Is this a reality? Well, I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer. All I have is my experience with Hampa Studio, where there has never, ever, ever been wage discrimination based on gender, nationality, race, religion or age. By species there is discrimination. We have tried monkeys, but they did better than me and were fired immediately. (You’ll see, for this joke, I’ll get a lot of shit from the animalists).

Why is there no discrimination in Hampa Studio? Basically because of a question of morals and personal convictions. In addition to this, we at Hampa Studio, as a medium-sized studio, have our salaries stipulated for each position of junior, medium, senior, supervisor, director, Master Jedi and Master of the Universe, and the amount varies depending on the department and above all on the project. There is no “human person” (as Cañita Brava would say) reason to pay a woman less than a man for the same job.

Currently in the studio, just by eye (I’m not doing the maths, I’m lazy) we have the same number of women as men and, as far as I can see, more women are going to join the production department now.

We also have and have always had women in different managerial positions and positions of responsibility.

When we do recruiting we only look at experience, skills, talent and attitude, we don’t look at anything else. We don’t even look at qualifications. (If you are a minor and you are reading this, just kidding, we do look at qualifications…study!)

Moana. The film stars a woman with no princess aspirations and there is no sentimental relationship.

In order to contrast opinions and experiences, I have obtained the opinions of a few artists and producers who have wanted to get involved in this issue and I thank them for giving us different visions, although it must also be said that there have been great artists from very powerful international companies who have refused to give me their opinion. In the purest “Let’s not get involved in this…” style. – Rajoy style 😉

Talking to Nathalie Martinez of Wise Blue Studios, a producer with an international reputation, a long career in the film industry and an expert in stumbling on the Annecy stage, 😉 she comments – “…the existing inequality, in my humble view, is more due to a general trend of late access of women to eminently technical professions than to a will of the industry and its members…”.

She, like me, believes “…that ours is a sector with a creative spirit and, therefore, mostly open-minded, where a greater female presence is not only welcome but expected and demanded”.

Lorena Ares, a great animation director with more than 13 years of experience, agrees: “I haven’t particularly suffered from discrimination. I suffered more when I dealt with builders who thought I was the girlfriend of one of my partners, or they told me I had to wear my hair well groomed and dress in a skirt suit instead of trousers. In animation I was always treated like a human being with ears, not tits”.

Along the same lines, but more forceful, is Belli Ramírez, from Mr Cohl, the producer with more animation productions behind her: “From my work experience, I don’t think there is wage inequality. Jobs are remunerated by experience, not by gender. But I insist, this is my experience, I haven’t seen it in our sector, but in most sectors there IS, we can consider ourselves lucky. It should be noted that there are other types of inequality, such as the fact that we are often invisible and they prefer to choose men for positions of responsibility. ”

She also agrees with Nathalie that there are no women in management and supervisory positions due to their late incorporation into the sector or into these types of positions. 

Ink & Paint, in the past, was the only job that women could access.

But no, not everything is rosy. Elena Gobernado, the sector’s most important script editor, does not mince her words and is much more blunt: “Yes, there is discrimination, not so much because of being an animator but because of the obstacles and social prejudices of Spanish culture. Management and positions of responsibility are usually occupied by men who prefer complicit colleagues to experience and talent. I must say that this is changing, or maybe it’s because I already have a CV to back me up. On the other hand, investors are usually men and for some strange reason they prefer to entrust their money to other men…”.

Elena’s point of view, and one I agree with from things I have heard, is that a woman’s salary has always been treated as a household supplement, not a livelihood. In fact, she recounts a situation that highlights this reality:

“I asked for a pay rise (the reasons I won’t even discuss, to this day I don’t even know how I kept up the pace). He didn’t answer me. He asked me what my partner did for a living. I told him that he was an engineer. He replied that I was covered. He told me to wait a bit, that there were people who needed that raise more than me. No comment. I left”.

Belli adds that “…at conferences and round tables, men are almost always invited exclusively. In few animation conferences do you see as many men as women. I think that women continue to have less visibility and those who organise the talks don’t spend time looking for them. One year, at Animayo, we were only women, but this should not be an isolated case and we should find people of both sexes at the conferences”.

…This phenomenon, rather than gender inequality, referred to the education that had been received until then, as there was a mentality that a woman had more sensitivity, precision and delicacy when colouring drawings. The woman had more patience or was more organised than a man,” says Ignacio Meneu, a real animation dinosaur (in experience, not in mentality or age…, because as big as he is, he catches me and bursts me!) And he continues… “Luckily this mentality is changing and nowadays I think that in animation there is no inequality between men and women. But as I said, that old mentality or education is changing, I mean it still hasn’t changed enough and we are still surprised or make news when an animator is a woman or a developer for videogames or simply directs animation”. This statement fits in perfectly with Belli’s appeal to all women: “Women, you have to be more active, in general, encourage yourselves to study more technical positions. It would be great to see more women on the technical side, in CTO positions, technical management, networks and systems, etc…“.

Mulan, a woman who becomes a warrior and although she finally has a romantic relationship, the roles are changed.

On an optimistic note, Nathalie, Lorena and Ignacio point out that, in one way or another, we are seeing more and more women occupying important positions throughout the audiovisual pyramid and they are highly valued. A statement with which I totally agree.

Elena, as a good creator, gives us some indications as to how we creators can help this change: “I think that, as generators of content that reaches millions of people and especially children, we have a major social responsibility. It is in our hands to take on the commitment to create content without harmful gender stereotypes (unless they are mercilessly parodied), with well distributed roles and dialogues that exclude phrases like ‘you cry like a girl’. The message we send out can contribute to improving girls’ and women’s rights in the world, or at least to reflection. This is how it should be. As Flavita Banana says, they don’t want us at their feet, they want us at their height.

Let’s grow up!”.

… and finally Elena invites us to test our content with the Bechdel test, analysing whether our productions meet these three requirements to overcome the gender gap:

At least two female characters appear.

These characters talk to each other at some point.

This conversation is about something other than a man (not limited to romantic relationships, e.g. two sisters talking about their father does not pass the test).

A variant requires that, in addition, the two women are named characters.

Look what film passes the test!!! Frozen, written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee.

Holy cow!!! I’m telling you, it’s been hard for me and some of our productions (I say some, if not almost all) don’t pass this test, so we have to improve… and a lot!

Look!, what movie passes the test !! Frozen written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee.

I know that women face many obstacles at the professional level (especially 100m hurdlers), but it seems that this is changing, although there is still a long, long way to go. Together, we can do it! Lots of strength!

Final note: As all the above are just opinions and not categorical statements, we leave the comments of this post open, without any kind of censorship, so that you can comment, debate and share anything you want, as long as you don’t get us into trouble (we know each other), accusing someone, insulting and those things that are so “cool” on social networks ;).

Alex Cervantes

Author Alex Cervantes

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