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Inclusion Riders and the Mindful Use of Influence

You may have heard that after Frances McDormand’s Oscar acceptance speech for best actress, a curious term rocketed to the top of Google’s “most-searched” list: Inclusion rider.

It was McDormand’s parting shot, a chance to bring a relatively obscure legal term into the zeitgeist’s spotlight. After an impassioned speech championing the call for diversity in Hollywood, McDormand raised the awareness of everyone in the room about something they could do to promote a more fair and equitable hiring situation.

A rider is defined as “attachment, schedule, amendment, or other writing that is annexed (added) to a document in order to modify it.” Riders are used in a number of ways to modify agreements. Sometimes health insurance companies use them to exclude certain types of coverage, while lawmakers have attached them to bills for political reasons.

McDormand’s message was clear: If you’re a person in a position of power in Hollywood, use an inclusion rider in your contract during negotiations. According to the Washington Post:

“An inclusion rider is a stipulation 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. Big-name actors who have leverage in negotiations could put this stipulation into their contracts and drastically change representation in film.”

The idea was not McDormand’s, but she did make a mindful choice to elevate it. The sort of inclusion rider she was referring to was drafted by Kalpana Kotagal of Cohen Milstein, after the idea was developed by Stacy Smith, founder and director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The Washington Post also reports that Stacy Smith showcased the idea in her 2016 TED Talk on “The data behind Hollywood’s sexism.” The idea is taking hold in Hollywood and many other actors are incorporating these riders into their projects. What’s so empowering about the “inclusion rider” is that it encourages people not to wait for institutions to make changes. It provides a distributed pathway to action, and the snowball effect of high-profile influencers may just be what it takes for the idea to gain critical mass.

VCs in tech have begun to pick up the “inclusion cause,” and some did so a year before McDormand’s speech. Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures makes a clear and compelling case for why inclusion clauses are necessary, and calls on others funding the next wave of innovators to do the same. They are not alone. Many have embraced this idea with the “open source” movement #MovingForward. How many industries may ultimately be transformed?

The Lesson for Privacy Professionals

One of the takeaways I’d like to offer from the “inclusion rider” and subsequent social media storm is the role mindfulness can play in authoring major change.

Mindfulness is sometimes regarded as a private, personal endeavor. We pause before we post and try to SEE privacy choices more clearly. But in this case, a simple, profound moment of mindfulness has prompted many influencers and A-listers to reconsider what they ask for in their professional lives. The implications are huge.

The story of the inclusion rider is one of the bright spots this year. Never discount how a moment of mindfulness can give wings to an idea whose time has come.

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