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Kalpana Kotagal, a partner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Kalpana Kotagal, a partner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Courtesy photo

A year ago the actress Frances McDormand, accepting an Oscar at the Academy Awards, pushed her fellow stars to learn about the so-called inclusion rider as part of a drive to boost diversity across the film industry.

That moment was surreal for Kalpana Kotagal, the Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll partner who helped write the language for such provisions. The rider is essentially a contract that influencers in Hollywood can use to require studios and other partners to employ diverse workers on set.

The idea sprung from the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The initiative was founded and directed by professor Stacy Smith. Kotagal connected with Smith through Anita Hill, who is of counsel at Cohen Milstein.

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