The power of using an inclusion rider in your next employee contract

When Frances McDormand won the Best Actress Oscar last week, she ended her thank-you speech with two words: “inclusion rider.”

Will inclusion riders spread outside Hollywood?

The shout-out sparked a national discussion on how a little-known contract clause could be used to increase the representation of minorities in Hollywood and beyond. The words trended on Twitter and became a top-searched term on Google. In Hollywood, an inclusion rider is an employment contract clause that requires cast and crew to meet diversity quotas for filmmakers like big-name actors to sign onto projects. After winning her Oscar, McDormand said she herself had just learned about the provision after 35 years in the business.

Washington civil rights attorney Kalpana Kotagal, who wrote the first inclusion rider in Hollywood, said that its power lies in how it leverages a single person’s star power to protect more vulnerable employees.

“One of the things that’s different about Hollywood and why we think the inclusion rider is a valuable tool is that everything is done on a project-by-project basis there,” Kotagal told the Washington Post. “The folks that we’re talking about including in the rider are not the women or men who are incredibly bankable, who studios clamor to have in their films.

“This rider covers the crew, and it covers the on-screen roles of the smaller parts, you know, the folks who make their living doing part after part.”

Kotagal said she hopes that the message of inclusion in hiring spreads beyond Tinsel Town: “If we don’t think about what are the workplace conditions to which other women are subject in other workplaces around the country, we’re missing an incredibly important opportunity,” she said.

Stacy Smith, the founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative who helped Kotagal craft the language of an inclusion rider, said that the clause creates financial consequences for films that do not follow it. If the film fails to meet the inclusion rider’s requirements, the distributor would need to send money to a fund for underrepresented groups.

Actors already committing to inclusion riders

Since McDormand’s speech, some major actors are going beyond talking about inclusion riders to actually committing to doing them. Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson said she was “committed” to the rider. On Instagram, Michael B. Jordan announced that his company, Outlier Society Productions, would use an inclusion rider for its projects.

“I’ve been privileged to work with powerful woman and persons of color throughout my career and it’s Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward,” Jordan said about why he was adopting the clause for his company’s projects.

Now, as momentum for the concept picks up steam, activists are wondering which major stakeholders will be next to announce their inclusion rider commitment. And they have ideas…