The Women in Animation (WIA) 2021 spring mentorship program will be taking applications starting March 31, with a special focus on mentoring women of color through its Mentor Circles series. In a new development, the WIA mentorship program is collaborating for the first time with Black N’Animated, LatinX in Animation, and Rise Up Animation to directly advance career opportunities for women of color in the animation industry. While applicants are not limited to people of color, they are strongly encouraged to apply through these partnerships. As part of the collaboration, each organization recruited and referred industry mentors from their networks, adding to WIA’s pool of mentors.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with WIA for their Mentor Circles program,” said Waymond Singleton and Breana Williams, co-founders of Black N’Animated. “By having more mentors of color in these types of spaces it emphasizes that women of color, especially Black women, are leaders in this industry — as they are often overlooked. They are and always have been here, and are an inspiration for up and coming animation professionals.”
Bryan Dimas, co-founder and co-director of LatinX in Animation, said: “LXiA is thrilled to partner with WIA in building pathways for more diverse voices in the animation industry, specifically for women of color. Opportunities like these that are intentional and intersectional are often limited to a smaller cohort. With WIA’s reach and the collective communities their Mentor Circles engage, we’re excited to scale our joint impact and support a vibrant generation of animation professionals.”
The program is part of WIA’s commitment to reach 50/50 by 2025, as the mentorship program connects women and gender non-binary individuals at all levels and across a variety of industry roles to mentors who can help them achieve their career goals through guidance on taking the next steps on their professional paths.
“Rise Up Animation is honored to be able to partner with WIA on the 2021 spring Mentor Circles. Mentoring the next generation of creative people of color and especially women of color in animation is a gift that we get to pay forward as industry professionals. We need to raise those diverse voices up now!,” said Rise Up Animation co-founder Monica Lago-Kaytis.
All WIA mentors receive training, experience and support from mentor coach Aydrea Walden. The 2021 spring mentor pool comprises 73% women/non-binary, with at least 48% BIPOC and 40% based abroad.
“I’m super excited to see this round of circles reflect the amazing range of perspectives, voices, and talents that can help the animation industry continue to grow and thrive. Every single person has an amazing story to share and something unique, personal, wonderful, and important to bring to the table. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the things I’ve achieved without some amazing mentors, and I’m thrilled to help more women connect to mentors who can help them reach their goals,” Walden said.
Mentee applications will be accepted starting March 31, and for the first time, WIA members and members of any of the mentorship partner organizations can apply for free. “We realize that our members’ financial challenges may be daunting in these pandemic times, and that mentorship support is more valuable than ever in this moment, so we diligently adjusted our budget allocations to allow for wider mentee participation without charging for access to this program in 2021,” said WIA president Marge Dean.
A silver lining to the COVID-19 quarantine was the shift to virtual meetings for Mentor Circles, inspiring WIA’s launch of a proprietary online platform to organize and manage an even wider scale of mentors and mentee groups. With 45 mentors offering their time and expertise to the 2021 program, WIA expects to benefit up to 400 mentees in this round of Circles.
Since its initial operational year of 2014, the WIA Mentorship program has grown exponentially, starting with eight one-on-one pairings and reaching 631 mentees in 2020.
“The WIA Mentorship Program is really at the core of what WIA is about. We’re so proud of the tremendous success of this program and the many careers the program has supported and inspired over the years. We’ve received endless feedback from both mentees and mentors about how the program has had a profound impact on their lives,” added Dean.