And the Award Goes to …. The Inclusion Rider

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By Kiran Trehan, Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development
Department of Management, University of Birmingham


inclusion is much more than simply increasing racial, national, gender or class representation, [and] recruiting and retaining more people from traditionally under-represented identity groups.

So what is the inclusion rider? Frances McDormand’s final words at the Oscars this year “I have two words for you: inclusion rider” has been a focal point for media attention. Was this a new film in the making or a new award category I hear you asking yourselves?  No in fact the inclusion rider mentioned in McDormand’s speech, is referring to a concept which was explored by Stacy L. Smith in 2016, who discusses equality clauses being used in the film industry.  By having these ‘inclusion riders’ included in the A-list actors contract it could open the door for greater diversity in smaller roles on screen and behind the scenes. Underpinning these reforms has been a desire to create a diverse and inclusive workforce which reflects the society we live and work in.

In all walks of life, there seems to be continued discussions of gender exclusion and the lack of representation of women in senior roles, this spans to businesses, charities, public organisations, and other walks of life, where diversity in leadership is notable for its absence.  In response to the debates around the Oscars, we should not forget that this isn’t just an issue for the film industry and their awards ceremonies, this is a pertinent issue throughout our daily lives.  Despite the growing interest made by organisations, the government, civil society and individuals who champion gender equality we still seem to be stuck in the doldrums of women being under represented in senior positions.  Can we really continue to use the pipeline excuse of, a lack of women in less senior positions that are ready to take the next step, when in many cases women account for the majority of the workforce?

Initiatives like the ‘inclusion rider’ whilst they are welcomed, they are not new, with affirmative action and other diversity tools already used in many organisations for decades, why are we are still in this situation of women being under-represented? We should be looking at what has created and continues to create this problem and find actionable ways to change the inclusion crisis.

The research we are undertaking for the West Midlands Combined Authority leadership commission, set up by Andy Street, examines the state of leadership in the region and the factors which shape diversity and inclusion of leadership across sectors. Our research highlights that inclusion is much more than simply increasing racial, national, gender or class representation, [and] recruiting and retaining more people from traditionally under-represented identity groups.  The focus on economic and social benefits is equally important. Inclusion matters, but requires a move from the current rhetoric to ‘changing systems’ through isolated or episodic initiatives to collective institutional action.

So in 2019, will the Oscars and International Women’s Day still be talking about gender inequality, lack of female leaders and the gender pay gap? Or will the award go to The Inclusion Rider…time will tell!


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