The following report is a look at our DE&I initiatives.
When we launched Animade over ten years ago, we were a small team with a passion for animation and a dream that we wanted to become reality. We worked together well, shared important values and had our hearts in the right place. As a start-up at the beginning of our journey, that seemed like enough. Our aim was to survive and succeed, which we did, as we’re still here.
But we’re not a start-up anymore, and simply being ‘good people’ who are ‘trying to do our best’ is no longer going to cut it. Things need to change, and we need to be a part of that change. We owe it to the people we work with now, those who we’ll work with in the future, and the creative community as a whole.
We’ve started the journey by acknowledging that more must be done to make certain that our workplace and community are truly equal, representative and inclusive. If we want the industry to change, we need to show our commitment to diversity by looking inwards. We have to create a space at Animade to talk openly, make mistakes, learn how to apologise for those mistakes and move forward. To help us towards this goal, one of our biggest initial steps has been to create a dedicated DE&I team to help us reflect on our practices and understand where we can get better.
The following is a look at the initiatives and changes we’ve made so far. It also serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go. From small steps to long-term commitments, we will continue to strive to improve every day. We’ll keep a log of our progress here.
We think it’s important to be held to account by our colleagues, our peers and the creative industry as a whole, so if you have any questions, comments or ideas, please get in touch with me directly.
Co-founder / Managing Director
For the last nine months, we’ve been working with Leyya Sattar and Roshni Goyate from The Other Box, an organisation that educates and empowers people to work and live more inclusively.
To educate ourselves as a company and as individuals, we have participated in their workplace training, which spans three courses:
Allyship in the Workplace
Know Your Bias
Each of these sessions covers topics including privilege, systemic oppression, stereotypes, inclusive language and microaggressions. Working with The Other Box has played a major role in shaping our structure, processes and policies as a company. For instance, we have worked with Leyya and Roshni to update our recruitment process to ensure we reach a diverse pool of candidates.
If you are interested in finding out more about the courses The Other Box provide and the guidance they can give, you can find them here.
We have always strived to have a fair and unbiased recruitment process. However, our work with The Other Box has helped us come to the realisation that some of our approaches weren’t as effective as we had thought. As a result, we have reviewed each part of our recruitment process and recently adjusted the following:
We have researched and widened the platforms on which we will promote opportunities at Animade to include the following: The Dots, If You Could, The Other Box, Creative Lives in Progress, Social Fixt and Run the Check.
We ensure all our job ads are free from gendered wording.
We have developed a new job form for potential candidates to upload their applications. This is part of our ‘blind recruitment’ initiative—the process of removing all information from applications that could result in conscious or unconscious bias during the hiring process. For each applicant, HR now hides the columns stating emails and names, and asks each applicant not to include their name on their application, CV or cover letter.
Candidates are scored by each interview panel member. These scores are sent to HR confidentially, before the panel members are brought into a discussion post-interview. This process is designed to avoid the influence of others and group biases when discussing a candidate’s application.
As well as training, we recognise the central role that education plays in the creation of an inclusive workplace. As a result, we have taken several steps to ensure our team have the opportunity to educate themselves and share resources:
Resources Slack channel: One of the immediate steps suggested by the team was to create a dedicated Slack channel where people could share links, essays, articles and websites to support important causes.
This has continued to grow, and it now covers topics and issues that will help not only the industry but also the wider world to become more accessible and inclusive.
Book club: Last year, we launched our internal book club. Each month we take suggestions from the group and create a poll that everybody can vote on. We endeavour to ensure that suggestions are drawn from a wide range of authors and texts, and that they tackle a breadth of subjects such as poverty, Black culture in the UK, immigration, gender and sexual identity, and much more. This has been central to the book club’s success.
This was an important step for us to take in expanding our understanding and knowledge. By reading and engaging with perspectives we don’t encounter in our everyday lives, we have encouraged conversations on those subjects in the workplace.
We signed up to the Government Kickstart Scheme—a government-funded programme that allows employers of any size to create new positions and take on 16-24-year-olds on Universal Credit. This enables companies to bring in grassroots talent at a junior level, breaking the mould and expanding diversity from the ground up.
We recruited and welcomed a Production Coordinator into our team. After successfully completing her placement, we offered her a full-time role as a Production Assistant. We are excited to continue working on more placements in the future. We recognise the value this brings to our company and will continue to offer the best opportunities and support that we can.
We have been working closely with She Drew That and Creative Lives in Progress for their monthly portfolio reviews. Both schemes aim to support those who are keen to enter the industry, with a focus on opening up access for underrepresented groups.
It's important that we, as a studio and as people, do what we can to propel the creative industry towards being a truly equal, representative and inclusive place.
Our work to date with She Drew That has involved taking part in one-on-one sessions, giving advice to Black Womxn and Womxn of Colour on their work and the next steps in their careers. As part of our ongoing partnership with Creative Lives in Progress, we participated in the review programme to discuss the work of students and recent graduates looking ahead to their first year in the animation industry.
We are continuing to support both series, and we're always open to getting involved with other schemes that are striving to make inclusion the norm in our industry. So if you have a project you think we could help with, get in touch.
There is a huge amount of diverse talent within the creative industry that isn’t championed and utilised. We want to change that, so we have adjusted how we search and expand our pool of talent.
Frida, one of our Creative Directors, continues to curate a list of exceptional creative talent from diverse backgrounds. We are always looking for ways to broaden our roster. For instance, when we were working with CoppaFeel!, we brought the brilliant Sister Music on board—an award-winning, female-led music agency on a mission to make composing for media more accessible to everyone.
One of the joys of working in the creative industry is the opportunity to partner with so many talented people. We continue to be amazed at the passion and skill of the people we work with, whether they’re sound designers, illustrators or voiceover artists, their dedication and ability is a true source of inspiration. ‘All Ears’ is a rolling series of talks inviting some of the most exciting, inventive and motivational creatives in our community. Through this platform, we’re able to champion the extraordinary talent out there to our team and our social media following.
The All Ears series has allowed us to bring people together in one place to talk openly about what inspires us, to share tips and tricks, and simply to admire the phenomenal work out there. It’s been one of our most exciting projects in the last year and a welcome opportunity for us to create an ongoing community event.
Our events have featured 3D animator and illustrator Loulou João, multi-medium illustrator Naomi Anderson-Subryan, Australia-based motion designer Glen Miralles, and, most recently, 2D/3D character animator from Detroit Rachel Reid. In every talk, we learn and improve that bit more, and it was amazing to see nearly 200 people from all over the world at our event in September 2021.
As well as inviting our audience to events such as All Ears, we have made efforts to engage with our social media followers more regularly. We recently started a new series on our Instagram Stories called Spotlight, in which we celebrate and showcase the work of talented creatives from underrepresented groups.
Our aim is simple: to use our platform to boost diversity and inclusion in the animation industry. Since its launch, we have included the extraordinary talents and work of Pip Williamson, Christina Moreland, Luan Hilton, and dina A. Amin, Szu-Yu Hou, Mohammed Alattar, Mia Saine, Dhwani Saraiya, Maf López, Bradford D. Smith II, Bhavya Patunjal, and Eleanor Ngai.
Internally, our main communication tool at Animade is Slack. Using the program gives us a lot of flexibility when it comes to creating safe spaces for all of our team members. This has been especially important while we work remotely.
In the last few months we have begun to create channels based on different experiences and backgrounds across the team. Our team can request a channel to be created and the rest of the team is then given an open invitation to join—we wanted to make sure that this was completely optional. We make no assumptions.
As part of our ongoing efforts to make our internal communication more inclusive, we’ve given teammates the option to include preferred pronouns in their bios and email signatures. We hope this will help towards creating a healthier space in which everyone can be their whole self and feel respected, both internally and externally.
In light of recent events surrounding violence against women, the women in Animade’s team came together in an optional, informal video chat to share their thoughts and experiences in a safe environment. We discussed how we could help each other by committing to offer the following:
Setting up ‘Safety Buddies’ on WhatsApp so Animaders who live near each other but don’t have family or friends around have the option to contact a colleague in case of emergency.
Offering taxis home as a business expense to avoid walking late at night.
Encouraging open discussions across the team that include the senior leadership team but are not necessarily led by them.
We are a company partner of Creative Lives in Progress (CLiP), which relaunched in January this year. CLiP is an inclusive creative careers resource on a mission to transform the way emerging talents access, understand and connect with the industry. They aim to support those who are keen to enter the industry, with a focus on opening up access for underrepresented groups.
Our financial investment in CLiP means we’re directly contributing to their work. The contribution we and other partners make allows CLiP to help emerging creative talent in a multitude of ways. For instance, they host ‘Pep Talks’ in which established creatives talk about their work and the audience is able to ask questions. They feature interviews with new talent (which for some is their first piece of press) and, importantly, continue to build on diverse representation in their editorial. As part of our ongoing partnership with Creative Lives in Progress, we participated in the review programme to discuss the work of students and recent graduates looking ahead to their first year in the animation industry.
As a company partner, we’re able to promote Animade’s opportunities on their platforms and benefit from their thoroughly researched ‘Committing to Progress’ resource pack which they send out quarterly. Our work with CLiP is a sign of our commitment to change. We’re proud to join them as part of our journey.
We’re keen to ensure that we play our part in championing equity in the creative industry. To that end, we’ve started getting involved in portfolio reviews, sharing our teams’ knowledge and expertise with creatives who want to boost their portfolios, or who are just starting out. We were invited to review portfolios by She Drew That, an organisation that started out as a monthly meet up for freelance women in animation, but has grown into a multi-platform community aimed at combating gender inequality within the animation industry.
The review was aimed at Black women and women of colour who had recently graduated, or wanted advice on how to get the most out of their existing portfolios and discuss the next steps of their careers. Two of our senior team each participated in 1:1 sessions with three creatives: they talked through animation techniques, industry best practice and shared their insights on how to edit their portfolio for the intended audience.
We're always open to getting involved with other schemes that are striving to make inclusion the norm in our industry. So if you have a project you think we could help with, please get in touch.
We have always believed in doing our bit to help make the world a little better. We think it’s important to use our platform to help raise awareness of issues that our team cares deeply about.
We continue to do this through our Goodness Projects, which provide an opportunity to dedicate time and creativity to support the wonderful work being done by amazing charities. Goodness Projects have seen us create a series of animated wombs for Bloody Good Period, a bold, graphic animation for charity NAM aidsmap, and a series of films for CoppaFeel! to raise awareness of World Cancer Day.
We have also expanded upon our Goodness Projects by setting up monthly donations to support a range of organisations and charities. Within the last six months, we have donated to:
Girls Out Loud
1000 Black Men in London
Black Minds Matter
Give Racism the Red Card
The Laura Hyde Foundation
Southall Black Sister
Voices of Children—Help children of war in Ukraine
People in Need—Support people in Ukraine
Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)—Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal
We know there’s more to do. We need to continue to improve and set up longer-term initiatives to make a real and lasting change for the better. To help keep us on the right track, we’ve established a working relationship with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Consultant Sereena Abbassi.
Sereena brings with her a wealth of experience in helping organisations to foster a more equitable environment. It’s been fascinating to hear her perspective and we’re excited about what she brings to the table. Every member of the team has been invited to attend focus groups on different topics. There were groups for those who identify as: women; men; LGBTQIA; Black, Asian, or minority ethnic. Sereena also held groups for junior people at Animade, those who identify as working class, and set up a mental health and wellbeing group.
Sereena will work with us to create an internal mentoring scheme, as well as advise our leadership team from an external perspective on how to continue to improve DE&I at Animade based on the feedback from her 1:1s and the focus group sessions. To learn more about Sereena, have a look at her website here.
By bringing in expert partners, we aim to keep learning and listening. This is a major part of our strategy to create meaningful change for Animade as a company, and to do our bit to contribute to a more inclusive future for everyone. There’s a long road ahead, but a brighter future at the end of it.
We care deeply about your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions. If there’s anything you’d like to say or any questions that you have, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to get in touch by emailing Jen here.