When Frances McDormand asked that all the female nominees stand up at the 2018 Oscars, the majority of women who stood were white. And when she left the stage with Best Actress Oscar in hand and said "inclusion rider," online pundits began defining the term as a clause meant just to stipulate that 50 percent of a film crew had to be female, causing some to view it as yet another example of white feminism. (Emma Stone's Oscars dig at the male directors nominated, two of which were men of color, also did not help.) But the inclusion rider isn't just for white women, a point co-creator and Civil Rights and Employment attorney Kalpana Kotagal wants everyone to understand.
"I want to make sure that it's completely clear that we recognize that the group that has most been challenged by the status quo in the industry are women of color," she tells me over the phone a few days after the Academy Awards. While co-creator Stacy Smith of USC Annenberg's Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative did describe the inclusion rider as a tool to get more women on sets in its initial definition, Kotagal insists that the inclusion rider is actually meant to encourage "multiple dimensions of diversity" — which, yes, means women of color too.
Along with Smith and their other co-creator Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni of Pearl Street Films, Kotagal has been working to expand the reach of the inclusion clause. "We recognize that diversity is broad and wide, and so we've conceived it to think about race and gender, to think about LGBT status, to think about disability status, and certainly we can also think about how... age can be a part of that discussion as well," she says.
The inclusion rider, Kotagal explains, is not a rigid set of rules or quotas, but rather a flexible contract clause that can be tailored to a client's specifications. "We fully expect that the rider will evolve and grow as it's actually used in negotiations. We look forward to that process of building and improving it," she says. Moreover, it isn't necessarily about hiring a certain number of a certain kind of ethnicity or gender, but about opening the application pool in a way that is more fair and reflective of society.
"This is a flexible framework that starts from what I think is a completely non-controversial proposition that workplaces are better off when they consciously build broad and diverse and well qualified pools of candidates from which to make hiring decisions," Kotagal explains. "There is no reason that for the vast majority of films, that the smaller roles on screen and several crew roles off screen, can't truly reflect the world we live in, and that's really what we're driving at here."
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