It was three years ago today that we learned the words “inclusion rider.”

The #metoo movement against sexual abuse and harassment had burst into public awareness the previous fall, following the exposure of repeated, widespread abuse by the blockbuster movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

Reports of additional perpetrators in the media and film industry were still making headlines when Frances McDormand stepped up to to the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood to accept her Oscar for her leading role in the film, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” 


I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.

McDormand graciously accepted and thanked her colleagues and supporters. She asked all the female nominees for awards that night to stand up — the actors, filmmakers, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, composers, songwriters … and accept applause.

And then she said the following, directed to the producers, financiers and dealmakers in the audience.

Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whatever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

You can be sure not many people in the audience knew what those cryptic words meant — but they soon found out, as the huge spike in google searches for “inclusion rider” showed.

She was talking about a legal stipulation that actors can request be inserted into their contracts that require a specific level of diversity in a film’s cast and crew.

McDormand later said she’d only just learned about the idea herself. “I just found out about this last week,” McDormand told reporters after the ceremony. “And so, the fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business — we’re not going back.”

The inclusion rider — or “equity rider” — concept was developed by professor Stacy L. Smith, together with film executive Fanshen Cox and attorney Kalpana Kotagal. They worked eight months to create the language for a legal template. The terms can vary, but the idea is to create a legally-binding document that will make space for women in a sector that has historically shut them out.

Some journalists have reported that the clause is not widely used, but Cox says otherwise: “We have lots of stories of people from the entertainment industry who are taking it on,” she told Marketplace news.

“The most important change … we won’t see for five years, but I’m confident that in five years the demographics will change. We will see more representation.”



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