How Pixar’s vision of a more inclusive workplace became a reality
Britta Wilson is a central figure in Pixar's pursuit of Diversity & inclusivity. Her mission is to create an environment where every employee feels included and valued, and where diverse voices contribute to the narratives that Pixar tells.
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Britta joined Pixar Animation Studios in October 2016, taking on the role of Vice President of Inclusion Strategies. She focuses on creating a culture of inclusion, one that is based on respect, curiosity, and appreciation of differences, as well as representation and continuous learning. Her aim is to enhance psychological safety and belonging at Pixar. This, she tells us, will pave the way for a broader range of voices to tell meaningful stories that resonate with a wider audience.
A brilliant example of this is the critically acclaimed animated movie "Soul,". a film about a Black jazz pianist called Joe, voiced by Jamie Foxx. As the first Pixar film to feature a Black man as its protagonist, "Soul" marked a groundbreaking moment. However, it also presented a complex challenge: how to make Joe a believable character who didn't fall into Hollywood's all-too-familiar stereotypes.
Britta was instrumental in creating an internal "Cultural Trust" for "Soul," a group made up of Black Pixar employees across all ages, genders, and roles. Their voices, along with those of external consultants, were vital in ensuring the film's narrative was as authentic as possible.
"Our immediate response was to provide the necessary scaffolding and support," Wilson explained. Her ultimate aim was to ensure that the pianist Joe navigated the world as a Black man would. She believed that the storytellers could be enriched by hearing the stories of those who were part of these communities, and this approach brought phenomenal results - "Soul" went on to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2021.
Britta’s vision extends beyond what we see on the screen. Upon joining Pixar, Britta told MNSBC “I spent the first seven or eight months of my time with the studio asking people to tell me their stories … what it was like to work at the studio..What I learned is that there was a high desire to embed new storytellers and have broader representation, but there was trepidation around how to do it because it was a new muscle that we needed to develop.” Off the back of this listening tour, Bretta launched an annual "Inclusion Summit," whereby speakers, experts, and community members engage with employees on a wide range of topics, all centered around equity, access, and opportunity. The summit also offers Pixar employees the chance to give back to communities with a day of service.
When asked about the legacy she hopes to leave at Pixar, Wilson said she wants to “make more deposits than withdrawals.” In other words, she hopes to have a lasting, positive impact on the lives of many, a goal that aligns perfectly with her role in making Pixar a more inclusive and representative space.
In an industry that reaches audiences from all walks of life, the impact of a singular, influential voice like Britta Wilson's cannot be overstated. Through her unwavering commitment to inclusivity and diversity, Pixar has become more than just an animation powerhouse; it is a platform where every voice is of significance and every story is valued. Britta's work serves as a model for other organisations to emulate, demonstrating that when inclusivity is woven into a company's ethos, the possibilities for storytelling—and the potential to connect with audiences—become boundless. As Britta continues to drive change, Pixar’s future narratives promise to reflect the richness and diversity of our world, delivering stories that inspire, engage, and above all, represent us all.