At last night’s Academy Awards presentation, Frances McDormand, winner of the Best Actress award, concluded her acceptance speech by saying she had two words to leave everyone with: “inclusion rider.” That led to millions of viewers frantically Googling the term to find out what it means.
An inclusion rider is a provision in a contract that stipulates in “small and supporting roles, characters should reflect the world we live in,” says University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith. That includes 50 percent gender parity, 40 percent inclusion for people of color, 5 percent L.G.B.T.Q., and 20 percent disabled, according to an article in Vanity Fair. Smith and Kalpana Kotagal, a civil rights and employment attorney in Washington, D.C., invented the concept. In a post-awards interview, Ms. McDormand said she only became aware of the phrase recently, after working 35 years in the industry. Ms. McDormand isn’t alone. Meryl Streep, also nominated for Best Actress and herself a multiple winner of the award, said that an inclusion rider is something she didn’t know she could ask for. The provision has been available for several years, according to the New York Times.
The fact that one can ask for an inclusion rider doesn’t necessarily mean it will be included. As with all contract provisions, everything is negotiable. However, actors with star power, such as McDormand, Streep, Tom Hanks and others, have notably more negotiating power than most individuals who deal with huge industries like Hollywood. If A-listers start demanding inclusion riders, the studios might just listen, to be benefit of all minority groups. At least that’s the hope of McDormand and Smith.