About the gender gap in motion graphics

Editor’s note: Due to the holiday break, November’s guest post was slightly delayed. We are thrilled to bring you this article by Isabel Urbina Peña. Isabel is an extremely talented art director with a focus on books, lettering, typeface design and experimental handwriting.

Outside of her design practice, Isabel is also the creator of Yes, Equal. Yes, Equal’s mission is simple: to close the gender gap in the creative community. Collectively, we have a lot of work to do in closing the gender gap in the motion graphics world and with the ever-shifting landscape of our industry, we felt this would be an excellent conversation to contribute to here at Motionographer.



Since starting Yes, Equal* and writing 1+1=2 well over a year ago, I’ve been interested in investigating more about each creative industry. Motion Graphics was one of my top interests. Even though I’m not part of the community, I’ve become well aware of its ins-and-outs through my husband and a handful of friends. So I started digging up a bit of research to better portray and analyze what’s the current status of the motion graphics industry.

I reached out to 30 motion graphics studios with a 1-min-survey about their studios and gender distribution within them. I only managed to get five responses, but with some additional research, I managed to get a little more information and a larger pool of data. Here’s a quick overview of the distribution of creative talent in 16 studios all over the globe. While this is a small sample, it’s pretty varied, including studios that have just started a couple of years ago to more established ones with over 15 years in the industry.

While it’s heavily male, we see a few ladies here and there making their way. Big props to ILLO (Italy) for flipping the scale and to Slanted Studios, Mighty Oak and PepRally, smaller studios in Brooklyn that are women-owned and setting the bar high.

I got the opportunity to speak with a few of the studio owners, and here’s what they said about why there aren’t more women in the motion graphics industry:

“For one, I think things are getting better. There seem to be more young women entering this field every year.

I could write a whole essay on this topic, but critical to me was the forced confidence I had with computers and technology at a young age. Neither of my parents are tech savvy. So if I wanted to play Sim City, The Need for Speed or install Print Shop Pro, I had no one to ask. In middle school, my parents would ask me to spec out which computer to buy for the whole family because no one else cared to. When the computer broke, I would call tech support.

I learned about Napster, pirating software and Geocities from my best friend’s brother. I was just exposed and never given an avenue to be helpless if I wanted to do something on the computer. I was also encouraged. (My mom signed me up for a weird computer camp that was hosted in our local mall. Weird to think about now).

I think my story is an increasingly less unique story for girls, and for that I’m happy. I also think my story is a common one for ‘everyone’ in motion design – for both men and women. Of course, this is anecdotal, but in college I remember being surprised by some of female peers’ helplessness when it came to technological troubleshooting. (Not that there weren’t helpless men, there were plenty).

But, I think growing up in the 80s and 90s there was something broadly gendered about ‘working with computers’. That cultural association has had a long hangover that remains today. We certainly see it in the tech sector. Again: I do believe it’s getting better. I also think being a woman in your 20s is different than being a woman in your 30s and 40s.

For me the continual question is: Why aren’t there more women in creative leadership positions? I think the answer has a lot to do with larger issues beyond the motion design industry.”

–Erica Gorochow, PepRally

“We get your question almost every time we speak at a conference or event. And granted, we are not a beacon of equal employment here at MK12; we’ve only ever employed two women as animators (for perspective, though, we are a studio of six; biggest we’ve ever been is eleven). It has nothing to do with our culture though, and everything to do with a lack of candidates.

It’s not so much that there isn’t an abundance of women in the field (though it is weighted more towards men), it’s that they are mostly behind the scenes: producing, editing, color correcting etc. But it’s not as often that they are in ‘alpha’ roles like creative and art directing, or design lead. Perhaps this has to do with the overall culture of the industry, which these days is probably one of the most gender-agnostic career choices available, but is still very much rooted in old-school male-dominated advertising and film conventions. It will take a while for that hangover to burn off, but it slowly has been.

My long-shot/overly-stereotypical theory is that boys are mostly raised to be tinkerers and girls to be organizers. Consider the kinds of toys that kids get; overwhelmingly, boys get things that they can take apart and figure out (science/chemistry kits, cars). Girls get things they can organize and improve on (houses, dolls). I won’t make so grandiose a blanket statement as to say that men and women stay locked into those roles, but it would certainly help explain why so many women are in industry roles that require more gestalt and top-level management.

It would also help explain why so many women gravitate towards print over motion design, because animation is more about getting under the hood, whereas print is more about solving a singular problem.”

–Ben Radatz, MK12

I think Erica & Ben make really good points. Education and upbringing are crucial to changing the way things work. Gender bias is definitely a problem larger than this industry.

However, I do think that change can start in our own environment: If you are an educator, encourage women to participate and keep learning about motion graphics. If you are a studio owner, bring more female interns to your studio, offering mentorship opportunities, if possible. Reach out and recommend women to colleagues and other studios.

If you are a producer, pitch women to your AD/CDs. Also, feel free to browse Yes, Equal or get in touch with Mograph Ladies to find more candidates when you are looking.

Jay Gradin from Giant Ant also chimed in with regards to the gender distribution in studios:

“This is a really good question. As a studio owner, I’m often asked why we don’t have more female team members (11 male, 3 female). In my experience, the number of female applicants has been a very, very small percentage. However(!), as we move more into classical animation workflows, the female freelance talent we have begun to draw on — and specific recruitment efforts —  has dramatically increased.”

–Jay Gradin, Giant Ant

Here’s another interesting response from a studio that asked to be kept anonymous:

“As our EPs, both LA and NY, as well as our head of production are women, they have kept a strong women presence at [anonymous studio]. Always working with us to keep everyone together as a collection of talent, rather than separated men and women.

I do remember one occasion where an artist was struggling with confidence in herself. Both [my partner] and I sat down and talked with her about trusting herself, because everyone else already trusted her. It echoed through our EPs, Head of Production and our artists, and she has become a force in the industry. The goal at the studio is to relay that confidence and inclusion to every person that steps foot in our door. We have surrounded ourselves with wonderful people who echo exactly that.”

–Anonymous, NY / LA

As mentioned earlier, the challenge lies in actively making effort to change our workplace.

I also really wanted to hear out what women in the industry had to say. So, I reached out to around 85 ladies and got 38 responses in a week (about a 45% response rate).

*This group was also pretty varied in terms of years in the industry, background, and current employment. Of 38 women surveyed, 11 are either Full-Time Employees at a Studio or Studio Owners and 25 are Self-Employed/Freelancers.

*The average time to complete this survey was 40min. I’d like to thank all the ladies who took time to respond. What you shared was incredibly important and needs to be discussed more often. Also many thanks to Laura Alejo and Freddy Arenas for putting me in touch with so many women in the industry.

I asked all of them if they had ever experienced gender bias in the workplace and I got an overwhelming number of yeses.

Out of 38 responses, only of 6 women said they had not experienced some type of gender bias in the industry. 38% experienced Sexual Harassment (!). 59% experienced Microaggressions, 44% Unequal Opportunities, 44% Wage Gap and 9% some other type of gender bias.

Many elaborated on their responses and I thought it would be useful — and eye-opening — to share some of their stories here:

*Some answers were kept anonymous at the request of the participants. Because of the overwhelming response rate, I had to leave out some of the comments that echoed the same message.

On microaggressions

“Sometimes it’s being cut off and talked over, or old art directors getting uncomfortable when I’ve made myself outspoken and fight for an opinion. Sometimes, even when the sexism wasn’t pointed towards me I spoke up, and that made a couple of writers uncomfortable. …I certainly didn’t have the ideals and knowledge I do now to spot sexism when it came up, but those are the things I do remember: constantly feeling a little stepped on.” –J

“I was told I was the emotional barometer of the office. Read: My attitude/emotions drastically impacted everyone in the company (mostly males) and therefore I had to keep up the positive attitude on behalf of the entire office. Meanwhile, men in the office commonly swore, yelled, and slammed things, and to my knowledge were not told that impacted those around them.” –Anonymous

“Feeling like I always have to prove myself, having to be extra friendly and extra cautious about what I say, being excluded in meetings and forcing my way in, being talked to in a condescending manner, having other male designers steal my assets and take credit for work that I did.” –Anonymous

“There is an assumption of a lack of mathematical knowledge and a constant need to prove my intelligence.” –Anonymous

“Most (male) co-workers seemed a little shocked with how much experience I have and how many games projects I have under my belt. It’s a double edge sword. Mention nothing and I get everything explained to me. Mention my past projects, somehow that translates to me bragging and being a know it all… I’ve had male co-workers stating that women think differently… Saying it’s bullshit that there is this bias and that it’s hard for us to get those gigs.” –Elizabeth Kupfer

“Jr. artists unwilling to take art direction from a female Art Director. … Being called a slut and dragon lady to my face ‘as a joke’ due to feelings of resentment i.e. promotions, winning pitches, green light on internal projects.” –Anonymous

“…I’ve been told I’m a good designer ‘for a girl’. …  When I was art directing at a prominent shop in LA, if I wasn’t specifically introduced to clients as the Art Director/Creative Lead, they often assumed I was a producer. I had one meeting where the (male) clients looked and spoke to my (male) producer the entire meeting. They assumed our roles were reversed. This kind of thing is subtle, but I feel it ALL of the time.” –Mara Smalley

“I’ve witnessed it happen to my female designer co-workers. Their intelligence was constantly undermined/questioned by a male co-worker of ours…” –Madeline

“In studio situations, some men tend to speak carelessly about women, from descriptions of women in the footage we edit, to language that’s used in discussing news or day-to-day matters. It’s difficult to describe, but there’s this sense of being an outsider looking in, of not belonging to an all-boys’ club, where most of the women are in administrative or producer-type roles rather than as directors, creatives or production artists.” –Anonymous

“…I worked on a team with about 9 guys, 10 people total, for nearly 3 years. …One day as I walked past the conference room at work, almost everyone from my team and a few people from various studios were in there drinking. I didn’t think anything of it, so I walked in. Everyone stopped what they were doing, went dead silent and just stared at me. One of the guys quietly explained to me that they just wanted to have a girlfriend-free party… He then explained that they wanted to be able to joke around freely without offending me. Furious, but also outnumbered, I returned to my desk where I found Frank*. I asked if he knew about the party. He didn’t. Both of us were upset, not to mention confused … Frank didn’t want to make a fuss about it the next day– after all, we still had to work with these guys but I couldn’t let it go. …When I finally did reach the organizer of the party, I asked a lot of questions. … In the end, a couple of the guys seemed to understand, some seemed indifferent, and the rest solidified in their minds an image of me as a raging bitch. As far as I know, the party’s continued with a change of location. I quit that job and Frank transferred to another department, eventually leaving as well. I still count it among my small victories.” –Alicia Reece

*(name changed for privacy)

On unequal opportunities

“Visual effects artists in the nineties were predominantly male so it was a constant struggle to be taken seriously. There was the misconception that men were more “technically astute” than women, and as a result I had at least two clients who refused to work with me simply because I was a woman. One of those clients had to be coached to work with me, which was equally as difficult and uncomfortable.” –Maryanne Butler

“It was actually at my previous job. The company wouldn’t give opportunities to women to become animators or motion designers. So positions were hilariously divided by gender. All animators were men and graphic designers were mostly women. I don’t think upper management did it intentionally, however it set the tone for the environment that women should not be animators –women’s role in the company was assisting male animators.” –Heewon Sohn

“I have seen younger, less talented, and/or less experienced men in positions of authority or promoted so many times I could not begin to count them. Some men seem to automatically respect other men more.” –Anonymous

“… It’s bullshit that I don’t really get to work on the gory stuff cause I’m a woman. Or that a woman was assigned to animate the female character ’cause I understand how a woman moves cause I am one. … I feel like I sometimes get pigeon holed for working on detailed and subtle animations vs. the big dynamic movements. That could be my previous projects, but that could also be a ‘she’s a woman, how would she know how a male character should move, fall, fight, etc.’ There was actually a studio that was at a job fair and I got to meet some of the leads on the animation team. They immediately were not interested in talking to me. Their eyebrows raised slightly when I mentioned how familiar I was with the program they used. I did their animation test, told a male friend about how they were looking for people and he got the job.” –Elizabeth Kupfer

“…When I first started there was no initiative from the company to include me or expose me to new parts of the process. This led me down a path of not animating, thus not being incorporated into the full design process. I was also told that being ambitious was a weakness.” –Lindsay

On the wage gap

My male peer was making 20K more than me. –Anonymous

I’ve gotten lower pay for same level experience. –Laura Alejo

“I have always earned less than my male counterparts, especially in VFX compositing work.” –Maryanne Butler

“I don’t know if we do this to ourselves or what the deal is, but the more I find out what other people are getting paid… the more I realize that me and other females tend to ask for less money than our male coworkers.” –Anonymous

“Struggled for promotions. Pretty sure my pay at points was below market.” –Kelli Miller

“When I found out my male colleague made more than me, I made a plan to quit and go freelance. I had been asking for a raise for several months prior.” –Anonymous

On sexual harassment

“I was fired from a motion studio, where I was the only/first female hire aside from the receptionist, after I realized one of the partners was handing a porn DVD to another designer and talking about it in not-so-subtle coded language. The same week, I realized there were porn videos on my computer, in my iTunes movies, left there from a previous employee. Apparently, before they hired me, they all used to watch porn together in the office. … I reported finding the porn on my computer and a week later I was fired.” –Mara Smalley

“…I’ve experienced a lot of sexual harassment as an artist, and on multiple occasions had male directors try to come onto me. One concluded that I was a lesbian, because I took my job more seriously than his advances. During one session, I had to walk away from a job due to the physical nature of a director’s sexual advances.” –Maryanne Butler

“…I have been hugged and grabbed by male co-workers in social settings without really wanting to be hugged or grabbed. They’ve also gotten uncomfortably close or stared at my boobs or crotch. I’ve been hit on several times and asked out on dates. Being married and wearing a wedding band seems to have quashed all of those advances, but I still sometimes get the stares. –Elizabeth Kupfer

“…There was that one time my 10-15 years older boss reeeeeaaaaallly wanted to have sex soooo… that sucked.” –Anonymous

On why there aren’t more women in motion graphics

“I think it’s a sort of word-of-mouth type of industry. Friends introducing friends. And if most of those people are male and they’re introducing their mostly male friends … it stays mostly male. Also a lot of the decision-makers client-side are male, interested in male storylines, etc. so maybe that perpetuates the whole thing. It seems like it’s still ok for the male decision-maker to pick the “guy” over the “girl” because he relates to him more easily, while it’s no longer ok to do that in terms of race or social class.” –Anonymous

“I definitely believe that the Motion Graphics industry is representative of larger societal biases that lead us to think that even the least qualified man could do a better job than a highly qualified woman…. So, maybe this looks like fewer job opportunities out of school or reluctance to hire women by those on the client side. Maybe it’s also about women who become parents in a society lacking appropriate social programs to support their caregiving efforts, pushing women to leave the industry at a stage when they could be in leadership positions hiring other women. Or maybe women who choose to leave the industry at any stage because of getting tired of being outnumbered. I know when I was younger, I felt like the industry was a boy’s club and this caused me to question whether I was the right fit, so it’s real… when you walk into an office and you’re the only woman. It can be tough, and sometimes that wears on you. But hopefully we can stick it out and find community. I know I have been lucky enough to find this, and it made all the difference.” –Anonymous

“Unconscious gender bias starts at the top. When you have studios who have never had a female director, you have to ask yourself why? On the other hand, Jenn Sofio Hall at Elastic is a great example of someone who is helping to change the game. She is the Managing Director and co-founder and she hires women. …[Elastic] was the most gender balanced studio I’ve ever worked at. There is a strong correlation between gender equity and good work. I wish more studios would get this…” –Mara Smalley

“I think historically it’s been a white male dominated industry and women are often pushed into production/supporting roles.” –Anonymous

“One problem is the lack of female leadership that more junior women can see and read and be encouraged and guided by. It’s easy to give up, if you can not see a clear path forward to success.” –Anonymous

“I think the technology can be intimidating and young girls are taught, whether subconsciously or consciously, that tech is a dude’s game and is too complicated for them.” –Kelli Miller

“Anything related to software expertise such as motion graphics, 3D modeling, CAD, and coding are largely male-dominated fields. There are minimal female role models in these industries. Moreover, graphics are heavily attributed to video games (also aimed at males heavily), and finally – motion graphics are a version of film. The low amount of female directors and producers in film is astonishingly bad.” –Anonymous

“I think society as a whole is still grappling with gender stereotypes. You can see the way they’re reinforced from a young age by the way toys are marketed to girls…” –Madeline

“I can’t really speak for the larger markets, but from a USA (Midwestern) point of view, I’d say it’s a mix of ignorance, indifference, and a lack of hiring in general. When only 2 maybe 3 students are hired full time in the local market each year, progress is slow. Sure, we have some good years, but for the most part, the bulk of our workforce remembers a time when there were booth-girls selling software to nerdy guys. To be clear– I have nothing against the older generations– they are my mentors. I’m merely trying to explain why, even though there are more women graduating today, getting them into local studios is proving to be a lengthy process. The waves of work are very tumultuous in the Midwest, and studios reasonably want to keep their ships small. The ignorance and indifference help ensure that the 2-3 students that are hired, look just like the people who already work there.” –Alicia Reece

On child care and maternity leave

“…As a director and woman, I know that I have to project myself into 5 years or maybe more if I expect to be a strong director. It takes time: it’s fighting a lot, to get the best jobs. I know that, for now, building a family and having children can’t be possible: I’ll probably think about it later… This job requires a lot a patience and passion, which can’t allow to have a family when you are starting out. You have to put that aside, and hope to be more stable after some years…”–Emmanuelle Leleu

“As a mother of 2, I feel very alone in this industry and often think that there is no place for people, especially women who have to balance their life. The schedules in motion graphics and the demand that companies require from their talent do not permit leaving by 5. There has to be more flexibility and ability to have a successful career without sacrificing the choice to have a family. The women in this industry need to start talking to one another and not living in silos…We are not a boutique industry anymore –the women are growing up and going to face the challenge of having children. Feeling like freelance (where you have limited opportunity to lead and grow) is the only path to flexibility, is a loss and shame. Our voices are critical right now, especially. Let’s look at what is going on in other industries to have a more productive dialogue that will give women (and men) more choices. This isn’t just a women’s issue. –Lindsay

“Not being aware as an industry of the reality of an aging talent pool where there are other responsibilities in play such as being a parent. Pretending as an industry that we are all still in our 20’s and there are no limits on time and amount of work expected.” –Laura Alejo

“Having paternity care as well as maternity care is important. If the man is also offered an equal amount of time off, then the childcare can also be shifted towards the dad and it frees up the woman to go back to work if she wants to. Ultimately, it gives the woman more options. –Anonymous

“We need to discuss age and gender discrimination more, for example I was breastfeeding while on-site. Needed to pump, but the facilities didn’t have a women’s only bathroom, so I had to wait until I got home. I could not discuss it with the producers, since they were all male.This issue will come up more within the next 10 years since more and more mograph women will start to have families. … –Anonymous

“…The other issue in motion graphics are the hours we work. Working 10am-7pm (As opposed to 9-6 or 8-5?) makes child care nearly impossible without a nanny. When women in their 30’s, start thinking about starting a family the options look VERY bleak. There is a very good chance that I will leave the industry all together when I have kids, and that totally stinks.” –Mara Smalley

On getting support from others in the industry

“I have always been encouraged by other female artists, and like to think I’d do it for the next generation. Years ago we created a social group for women in the business– I’d love to get that going again. It was a wonderful way for women to share stories and be motivated and inspired by one another.” –Maryanne Butler

“The studio I’m at now, makes an effort to hire more women, and actively seeks them out. They are also partially woman-owned.” –Anonymous

“I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my career. My bosses have backed me up on design choices and have treated me with so much kindness and respect. One of my bosses really sought to make his workplace inclusive and welcoming, and it happened to be my first job. I’m so thankful for that, it set my bar really high for workplaces ever since.” –J

“On my current job, many of my female co-workers like to help each other with brainstorming new ideas and teach each other different software, etc.” –Heewon Sohn

“The people that have made me feel included are those who gave me the best opportunities.” –Mara Smalley

“I have had MANY male mentors who have been extremely supportive. And of course the women in my career have been great.” –Kelli Miller

“I was the Senior Motion Graphics artist on a CBS show. I was pregnant with twins at the time, and the Lead Editor (a father of twins) asked me, ‘Is that breakfast #1 or #2? My wife always had 2 breakfasts when she was expecting our twins.’ And then he went on to tell a funny anecdote about misplacing one of his babies. He saw me as a fellow parent of twins and an equal colleague–I could tell from his tone and approach.”  –Anonymous

“When I started my first job at Fischer Edit, I think most people assumed I was someone else’s kid wandering around the studio. A producer named Kathy started talking to me, and when she discovered I that I could animate, she did everything she could to help me animate more. She’s my work mom. I also had my work brothers, Carlos and Matt, who reminded me daily that I was not hired to be someone’s assistant. Actually, I truly loved everyone at Fischer Edit- but Kathy, Matt and Carlos helped me find my place there.” –Alicia Reece

“I’ve always been really into ‘bands’ or ‘groups’ of people working in this industry. I’m also doing that job (directing) because I love working with a team. And I have to say, I’ve always been very close to men in this industry (probably because there are not so many girls actually!). But it has never made a difference. I don’t feel any difference working with them, while working with girls. I think they appreciate to work with women, because it’s a different sensibility. My producer, Nicolas de Rosanbo, always pushed me to create and write for short films. Not only because it’s his job, but also because this industry is about connections: this job requires so much sensibility, feelings, emotions, that you need someone to rely on sometimes. He has been the one to find the right words to help me finding a direction into this job, and actually to give me the opportunity to become a director.”–Emmanuelle Leleu

Additionally, MANY women expressed how great it has been to be part of the the Ladies of Mograph group. Here’s what a few of them said:

“I’m part of the Ladies of Mograph group. We email each other about jobs and projects we’ve worked on. Whenever we have a new website or reel. It’s pretty awesome.” –Elizabeth Kupfer

“The ladies of mograph group has formed several years ago and formed a small community. Please reach out for jobs, drinks, food, talk.. etc” –Anonymous

“NYC has a VERY strong and awesome community of female motion graphics artists. We are great and supportive.” –Anonymous

Positive thoughts and comments

“Be kind to each other. Support each other, it will only bring us higher.”–Heewon Sohn

“I like to think that tide is changing and I am encouraged at how many female applicants for positions in digital design there currently are. I see more women in the digital arts than I have ever seen before and hope that continues to grow. … Women still have a small mountain to climb in what is a very male-dominated industry, but we are getting there! I certainly feel like there is much more respect for women in the industry than there was 20 years ago when I was starting in it.”–Maryanne Butler

“Motion graphics is a really fun and growing part of the design industry, I’m glad folks are asking questions about why the gap is there and the experiences of others. I’d love to work with more women in motion design: there’s so much good stuff to be done.” –J

“…In the last 3-4 years I have seen more women animating and it’s wonderful. They’re talented, capable and driven. We should all make an effort on a project by project basis to have women on our teams. Having that become the norm and integrating our perspective into the process is critical to showing our value.” –Lindsay

“…In my experience, I’ve never felt excluded, or felt disadvantage because I’m a woman in an industry consisted of mostly men. When it comes to wages, again I don’t think women get pay any less than men. If the woman can do the same job delivering quality work, companies are willing to pay (equally to men).” –Manda Cheung

“I don’t necessarily think it has to do with gender bias directly. I will say that when I started in this industry there were very few female role models. I never worked for a woman-owned studio until my friends started them. But, I know that as my generation gets older and takes leadership positions, things are changing and evening out a bit.” –Anonymous

“…I came from a Tech job before this and it was a totally different ballgame. Very hard being female there. Wage gap. Less opportunity. Stereotyping. Old boys club. I find the motion graphics industry a much nicer environment all around and I might be blind to some of the smaller transgressions, because I was so used to much larger ones there.” –Anonymous

With these thoughts below I’d like to close for now, hopefully this won’t be the end of it, but a conversation starter:

“Equality is about balance. Is not about just one thing. We can talk equality without looking at the big picture, at all the things that influence a career. Is about how we present the discipline in schools, how we bring in new talent, put together teams: looking for variety, points of view and different profiles of people.” –Laura Alejo

“Myself and other women don’t typically cry gender bias for jobs we don’t get or opportunities that don’t come our way; either we never know about these missed opportunities or we often think that maybe we weren’t the right fit or didn’t have a strong enough portfolio. But when you look at the distribution of women in the industry versus, say, my undergraduate program (which was heavily female), there’s clearly an unwillingness to recognize competence or potential in women in the industry, as well as a reluctance to place women in leadership positions whereby they could promote gender balance in their teams” –Anonymous

We also should be more confident, share our experiences as motion designers and encourage young designers to play and try out motion design as their creative medium. not be intimidated by technical aspect when it comes to motion design. If you have good ideas, we can always figure things out. –Heewon Sohn

“We need more women mentors in motion graphics, formal or informal meetups with other women pursuing a similar career path, a greater sense of community. … As a continuing education After Effects teacher, I see a lot of women who are interested in mograph, but few who end up staying with it and getting to higher levels. How do we encourage more women to pursue the field, or stay in it once they’ve started?.” –Anonymous

Thanks for reading.

Special thanks to Joe Donalson and Justin Cone for opening up a space for this important conversation.

Yes, Equal, is a database of women in the creative fields, where there are over 1200 members, and almost 400 ladies that work in motion graphics and animation.

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About the author

Joe Donaldson

/ www.joedonaldson.tv
Joe Donaldson is a director, designer, and animator who worked on Motionograpgher from 2014-2020. Previously, he was an art director at Buck. Over the past decade, he's lived and worked in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles and has directed work for clients such as Apple, Google, Instagram, The New York Times, Unicef, Etsy, and The New Yorker. In addition to his creative work, in 2018 he started Holdframe. He's now working as a professor at Ringling College of Art and Design and when not teaching he can be found spending time with his family or out running.


Meg Soro

How does one find the Women in Mograph group?

Bran DJ

Meg: It looks like there’s an email for a group in the article above. Also, there’s a women’s channel at the Motion Design Artist’s slack group: visit hashtagmotiondesign.com for an invite to the slack then ask around.

Pedro Ramos

Really? What the heck, Motionographer? When did you guys start becoming politicians? This article (and the research) is a joke.
Why do we “need” more women in motion graphics? Don’t you think that we might need more black people too? The only thing that keeps a person from becoming a good artist is effort and persistence and that applies to everyone regardless of what they have between their legs, the colour of their skin, religion or sexual preferences.
Bringing this topic to the table in the design industry is pointless because, fortunately, the only thing companies and clients look for is talent.

Montanna Honeycutt

It is important for a business to have diversity. One culture, sex or ethnicity brings different life experiences and point of views to a project. You will only help yourselves and clients through this way of thinking. What happens when your client’s market is woman focused, and you have a room full of men? They can guess… we all know it’s that one real detail in marketing that makes the difference. That will connect with the viewer. With different backgrounds comes new ways of thinking, try to find a new way of thinking about this article.

Justin Fines

You really didn’t read the article did you? But I’m glad for your reply because it goes a long way to validating the points the author makes. ‘Threatened’ is the word that instantly pops into my mind. The only joke is the circles the female creatives I work with run around your sad portfolio.

Pedro Ramos

Have you come to think that maybe the majority of women don’t find motion graphics an appealing career? Heck, it’s not an attractive career for the majority of people in this planet, and to be honest, it’s completely ok; at the end of the day we are not saving lives here.

Justin Fines

Interesting backpedal. No I have not ‘come to think’ that. You’ve figured it out! There aren’t more women in the business because they don’t find it to be an ‘appealing career’. You aren’t the sharpest crayon in the box are you? I had never heard of you before today but after your bigoted posts on the most popular motiongraphics site, perhaps you should consider a more appealing career?

Pedro Ramos

Also, can you explain to me how having a penis took you to work at Buck? I’m sure it wasn’t your talent because that’s secondary, isn’t it?

Justin Fines

Your lack of empathy and perspective makes me embarrassed that I do have a penis.

Pedro Ramos

Justin, trust me, I know a thing or two about feeling discriminated.
Coming from Spain, where the job market is a joke, I came to London looking for a better future and I’m pretty certain that I’ve been underpaid in a few occasions because I’m just “a desperate Spaniard who will take anything”, but focusing on that side of reality doesn’t help me at all.
Don’t get me wrong: some of my favourite artists are women (Nidia Dias, Bee Grandinetti, Linn Fritz, Lana Simanenkova…) and it’s because of their talent that I admire them. Why always bring up the gender topic?

Lana Simanenkova

Pedro, since you mentioned me here I feel I need to reply to you.
Being talented doesn’t always get an artist to that amazing place in life where everyone treats you with respect, especially as a woman, in a competitive male dominant environment.
Often your talets are being questioned because of biases where people (yes even females) might think you are less technically knowledgable in software or if you come across unconfident in your proposals because you dont own a baritone voice, add the feeling of being underpaid because of your gender and questioning if you had any talent to being with at all to deserve such treatment and you have a nice mixture for a woman to feel horribly outnumbered and isolated.
Ofcourse we need to talk about other inequalities in the motion graphics industry but that not what this article is about. Its about gender. I just dont understand why you choose to be blind to so many accounts of inequality, brought up here publicly by extremely talented and strong women and saying its not an issue? Its just the work that matters?Unfortunately getting into”politics” as you say does get the conversation going and Im glad its not just swept under the rug!

Pedro Ramos

I understand how working on a predominantly male industry might make some women feel a bit uncomfortable, but what can people do about it?
Well, I’m thinking that maybe some women who don’t see the real value of their work should grow a bit more confident and develop a more assertive attitude at work. But hey, there are hundreds of male animators who suffer from this too! That’s why I think it’s ridiculous to make it a gender issue.
I honestly pay zero attention to the gender, race or nationality of the people I work with/for and try to treat everyone the same way. That’s probably why I don’t see the point of this whole thing.

Sarah Beth Hulver

That’s wonderful that you treat everyone the same way, Pedro. It really is. But not everyone does. Obviously, if you read this article, you now know that women are often treated poorly, paid less, and even sexually harassed (of course we’re not the only ones), and that’s why we are using this wonderful, public outlet to open a discussion about it. To raise awareness. Sure, it can happen to men too. And people of different races. Hey, it can happen in other industries too. But this article is about women & the gender gap in motion graphics.

If you truly read this whole thing carefully, then you’ve learned about the different types of gender discrimination that ACTUALLY EXIST in the industry. It doesn’t just make some women uncomfortable. Mara Smalley even quoted that she got FIRED for discovering that all of her male co-workers watched porn together at work. This is more than simply uncomfortable. She lost her job because of it; because she was a female who confronted a group of males about their inappropriate work behavior.

Good for you if you treat everyone equally. That’s what we’re striving to achieve. But ignoring the fact that it DOES happen, and that other people DO treat women unequally is just obtuse. What’s the point in calling this article a “joke” if you personally think women should be treated equally? To me, it sounds like you believe women should have equal opportunities. So why are you disregarding the situations in which we aren’t? Why do you think this is pointless if you agree with the overall message?

When you ask “but what can people do about it?” The answer is WRITE AN ARTICLE ON MOTIONOGRAPHER. And discuss it respectfully. Acknowledge it. Tell people about it.

Lana Simanenkova

Well, gender inequality just might be one of the reasons the animation industry might seem unappealing to women, to be honest.


Ouch man, I wouldn’t attack his portfolio directly, that’s pretty low. You really think you’re going to sway this guy when you respond with a personal attack?

Pedro, obviously our industry has a huge imbalance in not only female but other demographics as well. I believe it’s all worth talking about.

Justin Fines

I wasn’t trying to sway him.

Pedro Ramos

Can you share the link where you found my sad portfolio?


I was trying not to completely dismiss Pedro’s concerns as well as those of the article. I don’t agree with Pedro that this article is a “Joke” but I agreed with him that we have other problems in this field.

“You can see by his replies he isn’t going to be ‘swayed'”

Then why even bother conversing with him? If you don’t think you can convince him what are you going to do against the legion of people who think exactly like him? That’s a poor mindset and IMO defeats the entire purpose of this Article.

“And, much like the #alllivesmatter crowd, you minimize the importance of this article by, like Pedro, bringing up other issues.”

Personally I think you’ve already done that by essentially conceding defeat. And much like the liberal crowd in America and Britain you have attacked rather than educated. If you can’t convince these people that you’re right in a way that’s not condescending or mean then maybe you’re just arguing for the thrill of it, or for the onlookers who already agree with you.

You both need to reevaluate your stances.

Justin Fines

Thanks ‘Dave’.


Isn’t the entire point of this article to bring about social progress on our industry? Adding insults will only push these people further away.

Stephen Kelleher

@Dave – In fairness, if this huge article with data and the perspectives of dozens of female professionals doesn’t ‘sway’ Pedro, I don’t think an appeal to logic in the comments will ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Very true although it seems most people don’t even bother reading articles before commenting, see Reddit.

IFlyAnytime .

Any brilliant insights on wage inequality and sexual harassment? If a leading place for information about the industry isn’t the place for this conversation, where the hell is? Is that a joke to you?

Alice Isaac

Pedro, you are clearly the exact audience this article is aimed at, someone who needed this subject to be brought to their attention.
Sadly, it isn’t always as straightforward as putting in ‘effort and persistence’ in order to succeed – many women (of all ethnic diversities) have experienced sexism in their career, perhaps hampered by people with attitudes much like your own.
Hopefully you can at least acknowledge that, as a man, perhaps you haven’t come up against any of the issues women in this article have cited here? I guess your lack of empathy in that case is pretty accurate, however, to arrogantly state that all of the above is a ‘joke’? …Ill presume that is based on your OWN extensive research of the subject that you undertook and not a half-arsed opinion you plucked out of your ass.
1951 called, they want you back.

Pedro Ramos

What do you think about the lack of black people working in motion graphics? Or the fact that most animators (I’d dare say more than 90%) are from English speaking countries?
Also, you can be a bit more respectful in your reply.

Justin Fines

Those are other topics. That doesn’t negate this one. People will respect you once you make a valid point.

Prawson Creative

He’s made plenty of valid points. No need to be rude! I agree with him, this doesn’t belong on Motionographer.

Justin Fines

He didn’t make a single valid point. It does belong on Motionographer, as seen by the many upvotes on the article. Bigotry has no place here or anywhere. Sad you can’t see that.

Prawson Creative

This isn’t a political platform, and could you please not attack me as well? He’s not behaving like a bigot by any means by voicing his disagreement with this sort of agenda-driven content. Yikes!

Justin Cone

Allow me, as the co-creator of this platform, to tell you what this platform is about — and has been about since it was started over 10 years ago.

It’s about celebrating amazing work and — just as importantly — the people who make it. It’s about a community that has grown and evolved and divided and re-converged over and over. It’s about an industry (or two or three).

With that in mind, this article is completely consistent with what this site has always been about. Maybe you’re not a regular reader, so I won’t hold it against you for not knowing that.

Criticize other aspects of the article or its commenters if you feel you must. But please stop insisting that this article doesn’t *belong* here. On that point, you are objectively and unequivocally wrong.

Prawson Creative

Hey Justin,

I am a regular reader here, and I’d like to thank you for personally responding. I appreciate that you’ve taken my comment as an opportunity for discussion.

You are, as the creator of this platform, by all means welcome to leverage this platform however you please. If you feel that this sort of content belongs, that’s absolutely OK. I won’t beg the question on this point.

This article, is, however, inherently political. It begins with the assumption that fewer women in motion graphics is an issue. Why aren’t there more male nurses? Why aren’t there more more male elementary school teachers? The answer is that workplaces are complex spaces that for the most part, exist to turn a profit. The creative industry isn’t free from the profit motive, and to assume that most industry leaders ignore the profit motive due to gender is at best, disingenuous. To assume that your gender–and not your skillset–in a skill-based industry determines your employment, is at best, disingenuous. Discussing unconscious gender bias is ultimately nefarious to those of us in the industry who pride, more-so than anything else, skill above all else. When animators act as if there is a largely subconscious, overtly masculine force preventing their career advancement, it raises eyebrows for a good portion of the community– for good reason. Another commentator raised the important point that confirmation bias in cherry-picked articles such as this one is a huge issue, and to many of us, this article is latent with it.

In my opinion, this content isn’t constructive and doesn’t build the skillsets and professionalism of community members. Instead of focusing on anecdotal evidence of a female motion animator making less than a male colleague, have you considered an article on how-to negotiate more aggressively? Instead of focusing on the anecdotal wants of a female animator for greater maternity and paternity leave, have you considered publishing content or building a forum to lobby influential business leaders to make this a reality?

You have a lot of opportunities, as the creator of this platform, to leverage it as a potential for good in our industry. Instead, you’ve chosen to focus on the relative non-issue of women being a minority in this industry. This, to me, is unfortunate.

As I said before, thank you for your response, as well as the politeness of your response. I love this site and its community, and will continue to be a reader into the future.

Justin Cone

This comment: “Instead, you’ve chosen to focus on the relative non-issue of women being a minority in this industry.”

I’m just going to leave that there.

Prawson Creative

You really don’t think there’s a dialogue to be had here, do you? If so, just delete all my comments. I thought this was an opportunity to discuss, but I think you only want one point of view.

Justin Cone

While reading your comment, it became overwhelmingly clear to me that we have such radically different perspectives and assumptions about how the world works (or should work) that I don’t think a dialogue *with you* is a good use of time or energy.

Prawson Creative

That’s fair. We definitely come from opposite ends of the spectrum. At least we can find common ground in making cool animation.

Lizz K

So, is this opportunity to discuss that you speak of about how men and women should be treated equally? Or inequally? Or maybe that we shouldn’t be talking about it cause it shouldn’t be an issue?
I believe there should be a dialog. And I don’t think dismissing the other side is a way to open communication. The problem we all seem to come across is this ‘Omg, that can’t be true. This is the year 2016! We shouldn’t have this happening!’ When in fact it does happen. As humans, we’ve progressed to the point where we have women doing jobs that men do. But we are in no way treating each other equally.
I should be able to get a job anywhere and be just as mediocre as any man. That has not been my experience, however. That may not be everyones experience, but it also means I shouldn’t be dismissed for having had that experience.
I open the dialog with you, Prawson Creative. And I’ll go back to those questions I asked earlier. What do you think should be the dialog here?

Alice Isaac

When you acknowledge my points I’ll answer your other questions – which, might I add, are on a completely different subject. You are aware that this article was on gender inequality specifically? Pretty sure I showed you about as much respect as you showed in your first comment.

Pedro Ramos

I said this article is a joke purely because I think it is ridiculous to demand more women working on motion graphics. Complaining about those numbers is pointless because choosing a career depends on each individual and on the other hand you can’t force companies to hire more women. That would be a case of positive discrimination, wouldn’t it?
And about the “stories”, I am not denying them and I’m actually sad those people have experienced them; but I also think the analysis of the topic is a bit shallow and the author focuses too much on providing evidence of what she wants to believe (confirmation bias, Justin Cone himself would say). Nobody asked other people working with those women to tell their part of the story, which would give us a better perspective if we want to know the full version.

And on a different note, it shouldn’t surprise you much that I talk about other types of discrimination, or is gender discrimination a priority over racial? The only black animator I know is Wesley Louis, from The Line, and those numbers are far more striking than the male/female ratio.

Sarah Beth Hulver

Pedro, just because this particular article doesn’t focus on racial inequality in motion graphics, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and that it isn’t ALSO something of equal importance to be discussed. Not every article needs to touch on EVERY subject to be important and valid. Does every article that stresses racial inequality also need to point out gender discrimination? No. Does an article that discusses the “Black Lives Matter” movement also need to point out how important white lives are? No.

Another thing this article touches on that you have disregarded is that gender bias (in any industry) often happens because of someone’s upbringing – whether that be in the male who hires or the female who is applying. Often, it starts when we’re children, when we’re discouraged from participating in the same activities as the opposite gender. Less women are led to this path from a young age (just as Erica Gorochow and Ben Radatz – yes, a male! – mentioned in this article). In return, other men tend to see “themselves” in other men during interviews, etc., which will sometimes subconsciously lead them to hiring a man over a woman. It’s a lot more complex than you think. It’s called “second-generation bias.” Here’s a great article on it that you probably won’t read: https://medium.com/@anneloehr/here-s-why-you-can-t-attract-develop-and-retain-female-talent-2ee32d1de7cb#.5qxb5sdiv

Also, demanding “respect” from a woman who responds to you in a super respectful manner – just because she is making a valid and staggering argument – is just the type of thing this article touches on: gender discrimination. I truly hope you’ll see this one day and learn from it.

Bran DJ

Booooooooooo. Boo. Boooooooooooooooo!


wow… you guys are just scared to loose the pole position the society put you on for no reasons…

Jason Agar

Crazy stats. I thought that motiongraphics was supposed to be one of the most progressive. Looks like it’s right in line with everything else – time for change. @mathijsluijten:disqus Can I come work with you guys ;) – great weather and a great company.


Great article and glad to see this getting attention. While there are a lot of interesting points in the article, the one I’d like to see more expansion on is STEM education. This is a problem across multiple industries (not just mo-graph) and to make substantial strides in curbing this requires introducing STEM topics early and often.

Joe Donaldson

Gary knows how to build a good team!

Justin Fines

It’s slightly scary how good they are

João de Almeida

Nice piece of information :)
Micro aggressions happen to everybody, I would not put that as a gender issue.
The rest is just sad, XXI century and we are still doing that…

Brian | Motion Sickness

What a refreshing and wonderful post. I would love to see more women get into what we do. Our industry needs it!

Andrew Bird

Super interesting although it feels quite different from my decade of experience in TV production and motion graphics the UK and EU. Genders of my editor, PD and motion graphics buddies here in London and Manchester are split exactly down the middle. I actually just wrapped lighting a shoot with rather brilliant PD/Motion Graphics lady who runs a production company here in London. I’ll be asking her for a job later in 2017 i’m sure!

However one thing I found super interesting and actually journalled (as part of a Psychology paper): Theory about how kids are be environmentally and culturally primed (note: primed, not “pre-destined”). However this is culturally bound : not as pronounced an effect in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and definitely not in Iceland!

But i’ve definitely an effect: At my job, editing/mograph at the BBC 2/9 PD were female and this skewed even more when working in kids tv (BBC, Nickelodeon) where I had 4/6 PDs were female. My current position balances that out though; our boss brilliant PD lady who’s from Live OB background and oversees us (2 girls, 4 guys) doing the video grunt work.

However, this is London and it can serve as a bit of a bubble. One place where we can all observe gender gap is in Audio Engineering. I have never in my entire life worked with or met a working professional female audio engineer or soundie but I have trained a couple… and they are in LA and have become more powerful than I could possibly imagine.


Hate stuff like this. Superficial “studies” that showcase an imbalance of male to female ratio, then portray it as wrong.
If someone is talented, hire them.
If you get hired for any other reason besides your talent, you are not meant for the job. Man or woman.

Work hard, develop your craft, showcase your work. Don’t whine about it being unfair somehow. Prove why you should have the job based on your skillset.

Justin Fines

Thank you for validating the article!

Sam B

It’s interesting how women sharing matter-of-factly their life experiences are perceived as whiny. Sorry you “hate stuff like this” because (I’m assuming here) it makes you uncomfortable, but it’s the reality many live with.

Every man in the industry, at any level, but especially those in creative positions of leadership, should be encouraged to read this and just think about it with an open mind. Realize that your life experience differs greatly from that of a woman (I’m assuming you’re a man), and just listen when they share stuff like this. If it makes you uncomfortable, then it’s doing what it’s supposed to.


No. Not uncomfortable.
Anyone in a creative / leadership position should only hire who is best for the job. Talent, work ethic, price, availability, skillset, attitude, etc.

If they hire for other reasons that AREN’T geared towards who is best for the job and the company, they shouldn’t be the hiring manager.

You don’t hire because someone is a man or a woman.

Sarah Beth Hulver

“You don’t hire because someone is a man or a woman.” – This should be true. But it really isn’t always the case. It just isn’t. Not everyone is as “clear-sighted” as you.

Yes, leaders should only hire who is best for the job. But what this article highlights is that this doesn’t always happen. Not everything that happens in this world is idealistic or correct. Not everything happens how it’s supposed to. And many times, men hire men over women because they “see themselves in them” or trust them more because of their gender, even if subconscious.

Read this article about second-generation bias and open your eyes. There’s a lot more to it. https://medium.com/@anneloehr/here-s-why-you-can-t-attract-develop-and-retain-female-talent-2ee32d1de7cb#.5qxb5sdiv

This is a real thing. It bothers me that a lot of men commenting on this thread just glaze over the real, terrible things/situations that have happened to these women. They pass it off as “superficial” or a “joke.” Obviously there is still a lot of ignorance happening in the industry.

Justin Fines

The reason they say it’s ‘superficial’ or a ‘joke’ is because they have never experienced this kind of bias and discrimination. It’s unfortunately the reason we are faced with our current political situation in the US: sanctimonious white men who have no empathy for anyone outside of their narrow FOV. This objectivist stain is hard to wash out because so many of them are unwilling to self-examine.

Sarah Beth Hulver

So true.

Sam B

It clearly made you uncomfortable, or at least hit a nerve. And that’s ok. I imagine it must be personal and awkward to see your male privilege being addressed on a platform like this. Motionographer is very very popular in our quite small industry, which maybe makes it personal on a level that you haven’t had to think about before? And clearly you find this sort of article distasteful even though so many women (and a few men) are chiming in to say “yes this is true!”

But whatever, who am I to say how you should or shouldn’t feel.

By the way, the criteria you described above for hiring are “in an ideal world”. The people featured in this article are only saying “we don’t live in an ideal world and this has been my experience so far”. To dismiss it as whiny and irrelevant is extremely arrogant and narrow-minded.

Lucas Brooking

Preach brother

Eveline Falcão

I’ve experienced a balanced environment in my year as a student at SCAD – and, surprisingly, in one of the courses I had in the Motion Media Design major, only 2 out of 20 students were guys – it’s always strange to see that the vast majority of professionals I’ve encountered are men. I think balance is on the way for the US, and I wish I could feel the same about my home country, where the gender gap is a little broader and scarier. Also, the majority of professionals that I personally consider as an example of leadership and mastery of our craft are also male: it’s agreed and endorsed by the common sense as well.

To add to the list of experiences, I’ve heard from a panel of (women) professionals that the reason there’re many women as producers is because we have skills that are considered inherently feminine… things like being more charismatic and more sympathetic. On a subjective and objective level, it sounded sexist to me.

About the topic of work-life balance, I’m in my early 20’s and from the little I know, I do feel that I must pick between being a successful professional or having a family. I’ve seen only one very punctual example where children and career worked fine for a woman, at least from my perspective, I think it did.

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