Why our industry desperately needs an inclusion rider

After Frances McDormand made mention of an inclusion rider during her Oscar acceptance speech, We Are Social's Suzie Shaw began to reflect on how it's a concept necessary not just in Hollywood, but in adland too.

Frances McDormand just won this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, and closed her acceptance speech by saying: “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

Immediately, tens of millions of people picked up their phones to google the term. If, like me, you weren’t sure what it means… let me tell you.

In the entertainment industry, the word ‘rider’ refers to an artist’s backstage requirements, and is commonly associated with items such as white leather couches and bathtubs filled with triple filtered vodka.

But the pairing of ‘rider’ with ‘inclusion’ is just genius.

Together, what these two words mean is that the artist is demanding proportionate diversity – whether that be on set, backstage, or behind the camera. Gender, ethnic or otherwise.

It’s an idea that Hollywood badly needs. Research done on the top 100 films from 2007 to 2015 revealed that less than a third of all speaking roles go to women. Furthermore, women are three times more likely than men to be shown naked or partly naked.

The issue has been around for decades. But what’s new is this concept of an inclusion rider, and it excites me enormously. Why? Because it’s a mechanism for tangible change.

It infuriates me that in society, and in our industry, we see a relentless lamentation of the problem, but a lack of action.

And the inclusion rider is an idea for action.

Maybe we have Harvey Weinstein to thank for creating a burning platform. Maybe we have strong women like Frances McDormand to thank. But it feels like finally there may be some hand grenades heading up towards the glass ceiling.

Hollywood is literally the world’s stage. We all look to Hollywood. If Hollywood can change, so can we.

It’s now time for us to exploit the momentum in our own sphere, where it’s also much needed. Last week, I attended a corporate event which was absolutely brilliant and provided incredibly inspiring professional development, but I was one of only two women out of fifty attendees.

There are some positive signs. I have been encouraged to see a far healthier gender balance on stage on the conference circuit lately. I have been encouraged by the Free The Bid campaign, which has seen numerous ad agencies and some big clients like Nestle Water North America and Coca-Cola pledging to include at least one female director on bids for commercial production.

Let’s build on this momentum. Let’s build on the example of Hollywood. The time for action is now.

Those of us in a position of power in our industry need to start demanding our own inclusion rider.

Suzie Shaw is managing director at We Are Social.


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