Frances McDormand set social media ablaze in 2018 when she won her second Oscar for Best Actress and used part of her acceptance speech to talk about an “inclusion rider” — a provision in a contract providing for a certain level of diversity in casting, production or other aspects related to operations within the entertainment business. Actors like Michael B. Jordan, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck have since adopted the idea, and studios like Warner Bros. made it a standard part of some company productions.
Now it appears the idea of inclusion riders and their power for good is spreading even further into the industry, promoting even greater levels of diversity and inclusion for previously underrepresented workers.
Jonathan Landrum Jr. of the Associated Press reported that following a major announcement, “the Grammy Awards will adopt an inclusion rider that will require producers to recruit and hire more diverse candidates backstage and in front of the camera for next year’s ceremony.”
According to Landrum, “the rider will be added to its agreement with producers staging the 64th annual awards as a way to ensure equity and inclusion at all levels of production.”
In a statement announcing the decision, The Recording Academy President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said the use of inclusion riders was a “monumental step” for increased inclusion and representation within the industry.
“As the [Recording Academy] continues its transformational journey, diversifying our industry is at the core of every decision we make,” he said. “We’re dedicated to fostering an environment of inclusion industry-wide and hope that our efforts set an example for our peers in the music community.”
Although the full text of the Grammy inclusion rider won’t be released until September 2021, Landrum said it will “require producers to audition, interview and hire onstage and offstage people who have been historically and systematically excluded from the industry.”
According to Mason, the Grammy inclusion initiative was “created in partnership with several groups, including the Color of Change, inclusion rider co-authors Kalpana Kotagal and Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, and Ryan Butler, the founding director of Warner Music/Blavatnik Center for Music Business at Howard University.”
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said she hopes inclusion riders like the one she helped to develop can change the culture of hiring and make inclusion the norm, erasing many of the “unwritten rules in the entertainment industry that create racial exclusion.”
Kotagal, a civil rights attorney who also worked on the rider, echoed Robinson’s sentiments, saying the initiative is an especially important idea and a crucial first step to facilitate change in an industry like music, which has a long history of “exclusion and underrepresentation.”
“Part of what makes the inclusion rider so potent is its adaptability,” she said. Once implemented, she believes it will help the organization in countless ways, “deepening and diversifying hiring pools, setting benchmarks and targets for hiring, collecting and thoroughly analyzing applicant and hiring data and implementing accountability measures.”