By: Kalpana Kotagal
A year ago, when Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for best actress, she ended her speech with the statement, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”
For the next several days, one question dominated the headlines: What is the “inclusion rider”?
I was one of the few people who could explain this viral sensation. I am a civil rights and employment lawyer and a co-author of the inclusion rider — along with Stacy L. Smith of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, an executive at Pearl Street Films, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s production company.
The inclusion rider is a novel contract provision that improves hiring practices to deepen diversity within an industry — in this case, Hollywood — where representation for women, people of color, LGBTQ people and others has been stagnant for decades despite advocacy, lawsuits and even federal investigations.
It is a flexible and adaptable contractual addendum to, for example, a leading actor’s contract, that stipulates a process for studios to ensure representation and tackle implicit bias in the audition and interview process for a film or television project. Its goal is to establish interviewing processes, flexible benchmarks and tracking requirements for casting and hiring to ensure that the film — both on screen and off screen — more authentically reflect the world in which we actually live, while protecting the creative sovereignty of the artist.
It does not provide for quotas; rather, it stipulates consideration of the deep bench of talented candidates from historically underrepresented groups and strongly encourages hiring of qualified individuals from those under-represented backgrounds.
Now, as we approach the 2019 Oscars, everyone is asking: What’s happened in the year since the inclusion rider was introduced?
The answer is: a lot.
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