My Panel Inclusion Rider – Diversity Matters

Diversity Benefits Attendees

Photographer: Jason Alden/Getty Images

When Frances McDormand brought up Inclusion Riders at the Academy Awards, it inspired me to do something I’ve been talking about for a long time – making diversity part of my mission. I had been looking for an opportunity to take a stand on this issue with whatever platforms I have but this was the push I needed and the best way I could express where I stand.

I’ve been part of many industry panels both domestically and abroad and, unfortunately, I’ve been on a dais with exclusively white men of about the same age and backgrounds more times than I’d like to admit. It wasn’t a good look but much more important than that – it’s not good for the attendees. I’m generally not a big fan of panels that aren’t thoughtfully put together by a third party in the first place. I believe most industry panels are a bunch of people who are all friendly, share the same views on the topic, and are just looking for a way into an event on an elevated platform for the least amount of work. That said, I love a good debate. Different viewpoints on issues are a valid way to inspire and educate attendees. If your panel isn’t coming from that direction, it shouldn’t be a panel.

I’ve decided to put myself on the line and include a panel appearance inclusion rider to everyone who hires me to speak, moving forward. I need to know that the producer of the event has done their due diligence to make diversity a priority in the selection of their panels. If this means, I won’t be included in their plans, I accept that. If making this line in the sand makes room for a voice that would not have otherwise had a chance to be heard while bumping me from the line-up, I believe it’s worth it.

Here’s the language in my contract:

Panel Appearance Inclusion Rider:

If speaker is required to speak on stage, video, or any medium with a group of panelists, every effort must be made to include diverse voices amongst the panel. Speaker reserves the right to opt-out of the panel if it is believed efforts were not put forth to include a variety of diverse perspectives including but not limited to gender, race, age, identity, background or physicality.

If you believe I can further adapt the language in this to be more inclusive, let me know. My goal is to make the biggest positive impact possible for attendees and diversity of backgrounds and ideas is paramount to that mission.

I do wish to mention that I have been a part of panels as well as put a few together that include different voices and I’m proud to have contributed to these sessions.

Addendum 

If you are looking for a more diverse speaker line-up for your event, reach out to me. I’ll listen to your needs and ask my network to help. If you are looking for an event marketing presenter for a panel and already have enough people that look and sound like me, ask me for suggestions. Most of those I trust and respect come from different places than me and I’d love for you to meet them!

In addition, there is GenderAvenger which is a community dedicated to ensuring women are always part of the public dialog.

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