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How ‘Inclusion Rider’ Can Change the Film Industry and the Workplace With It

On March 4th 2018, actress Frances McDormand broke the internet — and blew our minds — during her acceptance speech for Best Actress with just one sentence: “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider”.

An inclusion rider is a provision in an actor or filmmakers contract that the cast and/or the crew in a film reflect real demographics, including a proportionate number of women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. It was coined by media researcher Stacy Smith in a TED talk she gave in 2016, where she discussed ways to bring more diversity on screen.

As I read the definition, I thought back to all my teenage favorite RomComs and dramas like The Notebook, Devil Wears Prada, Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, Titanic, even She’s The Man (Yes, where Amanda Bynes pretends she’s a boy). I never saw myself in any of those films.

I am half American half Indian, so I must admit my case is quite specific but looking through the long list of movies I watched as a teenager and even as a child, I found they represented not more than one community. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that the problem was not just on screen, but even more so off screen and behind the scenes. Take a look at some of these statistics from Variety on Hollywood:

  • In 2011, people of color made up a little more than 12% of directors of theatrical films and jumped to a meager 14.4% by 2019.
  • Female directors saw a jump, with just 4.1% in 2011 to 15.1% in 2019.
  • Screenwriters of color made up 7.8% in 2017, and then 13.9% in 2019.
  • In 2015, a study found that 91% of studio heads are White and 82% are male. Senior management is similarly monolithic: 93% White and 80% male.
  • Films with casts that had over 50% people of color jumped from 9.9% of all features in 2011 to 17.2% in 2019.

You can see where this is going. For a long time, Hollywood has been dominated by more or less one type of person. Look, for example, at the heroes for some of Hollywood’s top action flicks today like Ant Man, Spiderman, Star-Lord, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk. What do they all have in common? They are all white men.

The Importance of Representation

Films and TV shows can act as inspiration for many people in the audience watching, and potentially shape our behavior and the way we think while reinforcing negative and untrue stereotypes. Darnell Hunt, Director of African American studies at UCLA argued, ““We’re pretty confident that, the more TV you watch, the more media you consume, the more likely it is that media ― almost like radiation ― builds up, and the accumulated effect is to make you feel that what you’re seeing is somewhat normal.”

Diversity in film is important because it supports the narrative that there are more than one type of hero/heroine. When we feel represented, we feel included. Not only that, but it also showcases voices we have not traditionally heard from. Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Wonder Woman, and Coco all had groundbreaking box-office receptions. They proved that movies could be carried to success with leads from African American, female, Asian, and Latino backgrounds.

The inclusion rider clause in a contract can increase diversity and representation in the entire film making process allowing stories to be told that we have not heard before.

Diversity in the Workplace

I can’t think about diversity in movies, and not think about it in other spaces — especially working for a social enterprise that is all about diversity, inclusion and equity. The advantages of diversity in the workplace functions the same way as it does for film production and casting. Increasing representation from more communities tells a better story and helps people feel more included, connected and heard. It drives innovation and helps with productivity, as employees feel more included it increases morale and engagement.

In 2018, a study by McKinsey and Co found that teams in companies with gender diversity experienced 21% profitability, while teams with gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity resulted in 33% increase. When you narrow the backgrounds, experiences and outlooks of the people on your team you automatically limit the number of solutions that can be explored.

I have also experienced the benefits of diversity with the current job that I have. We are 6 spread out across 3 countries, and are not just culturally and ethnically diverse but also different in the way we approach problem solving. This inclusive and diverse environment has fostered a place where I feel confident, heard and valued — emotions I had not ever felt before in a workplace. After just 4 months, I cannot tell you how many times my own perspectives have been challenged and changed, because of these differences. I believe they have made me not just a better employee, but a better overall person.

How to Increase Representation in the Spaces Around You

I think everyone should experience the feelings of representation and inclusion. Since the workplace is something that we all have in common, here are my 3 tips on how to change the spaces there:

1. Do a personal audit of your company’s processes and culture. Are there zero-tolerance policies for discrimination? How about an inclusive work culture? If you think there is room for improvement, communicate to your HR rep and let them know.

Even though your workplace might look diverse and representative, these policies and a supportive open work culture can help all employees feel included.

2 COVID — 19 gave us one particular gift. The importance and practicality of the online world. Push for you, your colleagues, and your managers to partake in diversity and inclusion training. With online classes — there is no excuse, its budget and time friendly!

A large proportion of discrimination that occurs is often unconscious. Successful diversity training enables employees to become more comfortable with concepts such as unconscious bias at work and cultural competency.

3. Check yourself and the stereotypes and biases you have. Remember, if you want change to happen, the first place to start is with you. Once you check yourself, you can work toward checking others and correcting bad behavior when you see it.

I understand that to actually act on the first two pieces of advice, you need to be very comfortable in your work environment. This might not necessarily be possible in a company with toxic culture. If speaking up isn’t possible, start and stick to number 3.

Diversity, representation and inclusion can make us all stronger if we make room for them, whether that is in film or the workplace or even our own social circles. They push us to see beyond what we cannot see — our own limits.

Written by: Prianka Gilmour

Prianka is a creator, connector and lover of all things to do with communication. She is an extrovert in the biggest sense of the word. She spends her time creating exciting content for ila, reading about the importance of gut health, and thinking about gender equality.

About ila:

As a multi-awarded social enterprise, our aim, at ila, is to champion a purpose-driven and socially aware workforce. Our innovative tailored programs and world-class advisory team have extensive experience working with HR professionals, leadership teams and employees to champion a diverse and gender equal culture in the workplace.

Visit ila at https://www.ilageneration.com/home to find out more about us, the work we do and how we can help you in taking the first step towards a new way of working.

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