International Women's Day 2019

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by Lucy Cooper, Managing Director, Union

According to recent diversity statistics released by UK Screen and Animation UK, the VFX and Animation industries (27% and 40% female respectively) still have a long way to go to reach gender balance.
 
There are lots of positive initiatives happening in the industry right now and we wanted to have a forum to discuss the statistics and challenges, raise awareness of what has been put in place and gather more ideas on what we can all do to have a positive impact.
 
So the night before International Women’s Day, Animated Women UK, ACCESS:VFX and Animation UK teamed up to host a panel at The Mill.   We discussed the statistics and the challenges faced trying to address them with the aim of formulating ideas to drive change.
 
Chaired by IBC 365’s Alana Foster, the seven-strong panel represented VFX and Animation in both creative and management roles, as well as education. 

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

The event had a record attendance of 130 who were treated to a passionate debate about the causes of the imbalance and thoughts on what we can all do, both as individuals and companies, to address them.
 
Below are my takeaways:

AS INDIVIDUALS:

- Don’t wait to be noticed. Ask if you want something, but do your homework and keep things factual.

- Get a mentor - apply through ACCESS:VFX here.

- Be a mentor - sign up through ACCESS:VFX here. 

- Grow your network - why not join Animated Women UK?

- Take control of your career - apply for Animated Women UK’s Helen North Achieve Programme 2019. (Applications will open later in the year, but you can read about the programme here.)

- Learn about unconscious bias and be conscious of it every day.

- Listen, make sure all voices are heard and provide regular, constructive feedback. 

- Remember diversity in the room generates creativity.

- Broaden the conversation to include men.  “We all have to change together” Ross Urien, The Mill

- If your company is already part of ACCESS:VFX, get involved! If they aren’t, suggest they join.

- Get involved in the promotion of STEAM/STEM subjects in education - go back to your primary school and tell them what you do.

AS COMPANIES:

- If you’re not already a member, join ACCESS:VFX and get out and about raising awareness of jobs in the industry and encouraging diversity. 

- Encourage your staff to become mentors. They can do this through ACCESS:VFX even if your company is not a member.

- Work with your People/HR/Talent team to make sure you’re not missing out on good people - throw the net wider, don’t just look at VFX course graduates, check out maths graduates or those from a photographic, design, architecture or fine art background.  Be open minded!

- Look at hiring an Apprentice

- Support the Returners programme offered by Film London

- Try new ways of working - if you haven’t already, experiment with flexible and shared working and see how you can make it work

- Diversity and inclusion has to start from the top. Our leaders need to understand the benefits of a diverse workplace and be champions of change - if they’re not already, get them involved.   

- Be a champion for change yourself and engage others across your workplace to get involved too.

- Take a look at the composition of your management team and if it’s really male, ask yourself why and what can you do to change it?

- Work with course creators to figure out how to get a more diverse intake.

We were all inspired by the passion and ideas for making change and our wonderful audience who challenged us with some thought-provoking questions.

A huge thanks to all our panelists and our chair for their time. 

We took a photo of all the great women at Union on IWD.  Hopefully there will be more of them in next year's photo.