Frances McDormand Rides Again

Frances McDormand ended her acceptance speech at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony with an emphasis on two powerful words: “inclusion rider.” By citing the contractual stipulations that demand gender and racial diversity on-set, McDormand provided an example of a tangible way the industry could move forward in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up—and demanded better from her peers.

On Wednesday, McDormand reflected on the viral speech in Los Angeles at the Women in Film’s Crystal+Lucy Awards.

McDormand paid tribute during a segment of the program called “45 Years of Advocacy” to Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the author and original creator of the inclusion rider. “If I may use a sporting metaphor,” McDormand told the crowd, “If you want to go fast, go it alone, if you want to go far, do it together. Can we successfully legislate morality? Perhaps not. But we can ask our better selves to go forward together, to take us farther than we have gone before.”

It was then that McDormand turned around—revealing a red sticker with the words “inclusion rider” on her backside.

Actors can demand that inclusion riders, sometimes also called equity riders, be inserted into their contracts. The clauses create a requirement for the levels of diversity found in the film’s cast and crew—effectively empowering actors to leverage their position in order to demand the inclusion of more women, people of color, LGBTQ folks and persons with disabilities on set.

Since McDormand’s passionate speech at the Oscars, multiple actors such as Brie Larson and Michael B. Jordan have publicly noted that they will be adding inclusion riders to their contracts. Such actions can have astounding effects on expanding diversity and equity in Hollywood. Using the top films of 2013 as an example, Dr. Smith in 2014 declared that by putting equity in the contract of actors, the proportion of films with gender parity in the cast would go from 16 to 41 percent.

In Hollywood, an industry dominated by white men, the process of breaking down high walls and glass ceilings for women and people of color is well underfoot, but a long road is still ahead. Out of the 1,100 movies analyzed for this past year’s Academy Awards, only 43 were made by female directors, and only seven of them were women of color.

The only way forward is conscious change—and an active commitment to improving the media landscape for communities who lack representation within it. As Smith herself said in the wake of McDormand’s speech: “Support women. Champion women. And unequivocally, tomorrow, start hiring women.”


Rosalind Jones is a writer and global feminist thinker with a focus on international women's liberation. Her goal is to use her writing and language skills to elevate the voices of gender equality advocates in all corners of the world. She is an Occidental College graduate with a degree Diplomacy and World Affairs and a contributor to Ms.