Women’s Media Summit Draws Hollywood Gender Equality Activists


Women’s Media Summit Draws Hollywood Gender Equality Activists

Some of Hollywood’s leading gender equality activists will take part in the second annual Women’s Media Summit, including keynote speaker Dr. Stacy Smith, producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, and attorney Kalpana Kotagal — the co-creators of Hollywood’s “inclusion rider.” The summit will be held April 5-7 in Provincetown, Ma.

Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the USC/Annenberg School of Journalism, first proposed the adoption of “inclusion riders” in Hollywood contracts back in 2014. But they remained largely unknown until Frances McDormand finished her best actress acceptance speech earlier this month by saying:

“I have two words for you: inclusion rider.”

As conceived by Smith, who is widely regarded as one of the leading researchers and advocates for diversity in the entertainment industry, inclusion riders are addenda to employment contracts designed to create more equitable casting and hiring of behind-the-scenes workers.

DiGiovanni, who is to head strategic outreach at Matt Damon’s and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films, picked up the idea and took it to Kotagal, a partner at the law firm Cohen Milstein, who drew up the legal document. Then, a week after McDormand brought inclusion riders to the world’s attention, DiGiovanni announced that Pearl Street “will be adopting the inclusion rider for all of our projects moving forward.”

“Hollywood has kept women filmmakers shut out for decades because it is allowed to self-­regulate and faces no effective oversight body,” said director Maria Giese, co-founder of the Women’s Media Summit. “Now is the time to stop relying on inside ­industry solutions and demand the opportunity for equal participation in our nation’s cultural narrative.”

Last year’s Summit produced a media white paper that identified seven ways to end discrimination, and the Women’s Media Action Coalition was created to implement the seven action plans. This April’s summit will be centered on implementing the White Paper’s seven plans of action:

  • Litigation against gender discrimination
  • Lobbying policymakers to address gender discrimination in entertainment
  • Offering tax credits to encourage hiring women in key storytelling positions
  • Developing a financing network for female filmmakers
  • Gathering money for female filmmakers through the Women’s Media Incubator and Marketplace and FundHer
  • Creating a marketing campaign to educate the public about gender discrimination in Hollywood
  • Creating a consumer activism campaign to encourage viewers to vote with their dollars for gender equality.

Giese took the issue of discrimination against female film and TV directors to the ACLU in 2014, which then pressed the EEOC to undertake an investigation, which is still ongoing.


“The EEOC is reportedly in talks with all six major studios, but a settlement is taking too long,” she told Deadline. “Hollywood is loathe to have the federal government interfere in the industry. But history has shown that all the major advancements for female hires have come as the result of legal action. The fact is, how America’s cultural narrative formed through our entertainment media should be a central concern of all Americans.

We should not leave it in the hands of a small group of Hollywood insiders to determine. We, the people, need to hold the reins of this change. We need to make sure our federal government is upholding employment rights in our entertainment industry so we all get to be a part of the story.”

Other speakers and panelists at the summit include:

  • Gillian Thomas, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project
  • Caroline Heldman, associate professor of politics at Occidental College and the principal researcher for the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media
  • Lisa Strout, director of the Massachusetts Film Office
  • April Reign, senior director of marketing for Fractured Atlas and creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite
  • Kim Jackson, co-founder and president of entertainment at SingularDTV
  • Cristina Escobar, director of communications at The Representation Project
  • Stanford University lecturer Kathleen Tarr
  • Documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Delude-Dix
  • Writer-director Deborah Goodwin
  • Paul Serafini, producer, director and CEO of Angelina Pictures
  • Writer-director Laurie Weltz

Hosted by the Provincetown Film Society, the summit is being produced by Christine Walker, president of New Globe Films and executive director and CEO of the Provincetown Film Society.

In conjunction with the summit, a Film Financing Forum will be held to provide networking opportunity for writers, directors, producers, and investors interested in getting their projects financed.