Entering the frame with ‘Women in Animation’

Campus organization helps female animators and aspiring students enter a male-dominated corporate field

Photo Courtesy of Women in Animation



While scribbling away at drawing pads and polishing off character designs, UTD’s Women in Animation chapter allows its members to get a taste of the elusive industry and create the magic behind animated films and video games.

Women in Animation is an international non-profit organization with student-run chapters across the U.S., U.K. and Canada. WIA hopes to increase the number of women in the animation industry with the purpose of empowering and supporting female animators through mentorships, scholarship opportunities and speaker events featuring women in the industry.

The club came to UTD in the fall of 2021 after some older students had learned about the international organization. Eliana Nark, ATEC junior and president of the club, said she first joined WIA fall 2021 to feel more connected to the ATEC community.

“I felt disconnected to my school and community and WIA helped me find my little corner of ATEC,” Nark said.

The animation industry is disproportionately male-dominated, with little room for women’s voices to be heard. In 2023, WIA published their first annual impact report where president Marge Dean said that the percentage of women in animation had risen from 20% to 34% within the last 30 years.

Monika Salter, Associate Professor of Animation and Games Program at UTD, said she has been a part of WIA since working in the industry 18 years ago. While WIA focuses on preparing women for the industry, it also allows them to collaborate, an important aspect in animation according to Salter.

“Collaboration is key in making animated films as most projects require more artists than you would originally imagine,” Salter said. “We encourage students to get to know their fellow animation students from the first day of their first course with us.”

AHT senior Fatimeh Bashir first joined WIA in fall 2022 and became vice president of the club in fall 2023, saying the group helped her develop her leadership skills.

“Women in Animation really gives [me] a chance to have my own voice forward and plan events and be a leader, which is what I want to do,” Bashir said.

Bashir said the normal meetings for the club often vary. WIA hosts events such as “Draw and Chill,” promoting a safe space for members to work on their existing art projects or draw up new ideas. Nark said that events like “HalloWIA” are social events for members to decompress and have a fun time.

“We have a space where people can come and relax instead of just having pressure on them of the industry and I feel like we’re very friendly,” Bashir said.

They also have events to help with resume and portfolio building. Nark said these speaker events help expand animation students’ networks and help them meet new people within the industry.

“The Woman in Animation national organization always has mentorship circles where you get to work with people in the industry and I’ve personally had one of those and found it very informative,” Bashir said.

WIA also hosts several speaker events to provide their members with the ins-and-outs of the industry. Hosting speaker events featuring women in the animation industry, like Domee Shi, creator of Walt Disney’s “Turning Red” and Disney Pixar’s “Bao,” WIA aims to foster a safe space for women to tell their stories.

“I feel like the industry has evolved a lot from what it used to [be],” Bashir said. “Animation is male dominated, but it used to be a lot more and we are seeing more women’s stories coming out and women-led movies.”

Having director Karen Disher at the now discontinued Blue Sky Studios, a computer animation company known for films such as “Ice Age” and “Rio,” showed Salter the importance of having talented women role models, inspiring Salter to mentor students.

“I think the glass ceiling still exists for women looking to be promoted to more advanced roles past a regular artist position,” Salter said. “I still see very few women as departments leads and supervisors in films I work on today and often times I’m still the only one in the room.”

Salter said she hopes to give her students confidence when sharing ideas and to always learn new skills in the ever-changing technology of the animation industry.

“I try to encourage all of your animators to get more comfortable in speaking up in class as well as during their group projects and to not be shy about sharing their suggestions, ideas and critiques,” Salter said.

The WIA club will host an event at the end of March called “Animation Jams,” in collaboration with Animation Guild, where students will create a 3D short animation alongside other animators and individuals specializing in modeling, rigging and lighting. More information about the club and its events can be found on their Instagram page @wia_utdallas and through their Discord server.

The animation industry can be difficult to break into, but Bashir encourages those wanting a career in animation to reach out to more experienced WIA animators and those well-cemented in the industry.

“People are always willing to help,” Bashir said. “Don’t be afraid to try something new and explore different options.”



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