I’ve been using an inclusion rider since April 2019. Its purpose is to move from lamenting the lack of diversity at educational conferences and other professional development to actually making change happen. I wish I could say that I always realized this was needed or something I could do, but truthfully I was comfortable in my privilege and naively neglected opportunities to improve things.


My Inclusion Rider
Here’s what the inclusion rider in my contract says:

If there are multiple keynote presenters, featured speakers, or panelists (“the speakers”), at least 50% of the speakers must be people of color and at least 50% of the speakers must identify as women or non-binary. Otherwise, I reserve the right to withdraw commitment without penalty.

My hope for sharing my inclusion rider and the reactions that I’ve gotten to it from organizations is that it will publicize and normalize using inclusion riders in education so that professional development organizers proactively diversify their speaker lineups.


Here are actual responses from organizations who wanted me to speak at their event when I asked them if they will be able to work with the inclusion rider in my contract. They are not listed in any particular order. Below each quote is some additional context including what happened afterwards.


Reaction 1
“Unfortunately, I’ve already tentatively scheduled our other speakers, so I am unable to meet the terms of the rider.”

I did not speak at this event.


Reaction 2
“My only concern is the Inclusion Rider. I think it’s great to include in the contract, but we might fall a little short on the 50%. Here is the breakdown of our speakers.”

They went on to describe that the other featured speakers were 60% women and 40% people of color. I felt like that was close enough so I waived the rider and spoke at this event.


Reaction 3
“I’m aware of your rider. Please recommend others especially of color and women!”

I provided them with people I highly recommended but I ultimately was not able to speak at this conference and don’t remember what the lineup looked like.


Reaction 4
“There will only be one keynote speaker. Out of the featured and session speakers, in the past we have been typically 80-90% female, so that would not be a problem. We do not collect demographic data on our speakers, so I would have no way of knowing the percentage of speakers of color. I could not guarantee that there would be at least 50% speakers of color. We would certainly appreciate your recommendation of other speakers.”

I then explained that I would need to be on hold until they knew more. About two weeks later they emailed again with a featured speaker lineup that, including me, would be 66% speakers of color and 50% women. Multiple featured speakers were people I recommended. I was thrilled with this result and spoke at this event.


Reaction 5
“After speaking with our conference director, I don’t believe that we would be able to include the rider into the final contract. I would love for you to still be a featured speaker for us, and I can assure you that I am working diligently to have a diverse line up. Would my word be enough?”

I was going back and forth about how to respond to this. Ultimately, I said yes and spoke at this event. While the final lineup did not meet the threshold in the rider, it was closer than it had been in previous years.


Reaction 6
One conference had already selected one of its keynotes (a man of color) and wanted me to be the other keynote. So we discussed compromises including bringing on another women of color as an additional keynote and highlighting other speakers who were not keynotes. They responded saying that they did not have the money to bring on another keynote speaker but would highlight women and speakers of colors who were not keynotes. I then agreed to speak.

Later on, when social media came out, some of it featured essentially all white speakers. After reaching out to them, future social media was more diverse. I did wind up speaking at this conference, but in retrospect, I would have handled this differently.


Reaction 7
“We are very sad to say that at this time we cannot ensure that we can comply with the clause, because our vendors often will sponsor a featured speaker to present at our conference, and this year’s conference has already been booked. We are very thankful for the information provided and has opened up an opportunity to explore how to strengthen our communication with this consideration We hope to keep our line of communication open, should there be other opportunities that we can engage with you.”

This was by far my most satisfying no I’ve ever received. While I did not speak at this event, I definitely hope to work with this organization in the future.


Reaction 8
“The inclusion clause should not be an issue and I love that you have it.”

Originally it was going to be me and one other woman keynote. Ultimately, it was me and a woman of color. This event has yet to happen.


A Change To My Rider
While the rider I listed above is what I currently use, it includes a change I made in March 2021, about two years after I began using it. With greater understanding of people who identify as non-binary, I realized that the contract language excluded them. So, I updated the phrasing of my inclusion rider to change “at least 50% of the speakers must be female” to be “at least 50% of the speakers must identify as women or non-binary.”


Frequently Asked Questions
I want to proactively address some of the most common questions I receive about the inclusion rider. If you have a question that’s not listed here, please let me know in the comments.


How did you pick 50% as your threshold?
I picked 50% for gender identity because I was trying to come close to what exists in the general population. I picked 50% for people of color for a similar reason, though data varies depending at what region you look at (city versus state/province versus country versus world).


Are you just doing this because you feel guilty?
I remember when I had no idea why using an inclusion rider would be something that needed to happen. Having learned history in K-12 schools in the United States, I felt like I had a good understanding of historical events. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started to learn how much I had not been taught. I recommend reading this blog post on systemic racism I wrote in 2019 to better understand where I’m coming from.


Shouldn't we only be concerned with who can do the best job? Won't this lead to tokenism?
Prior to 2019, when I’d go to a conference I’d see the same big name speakers that I knew would inspire me and give me great ideas. These were almost always the same white guys. Eventually I started to realize that there had to be many other great speakers and if I never went and saw anyone else, I’d never know.

So I changed how I picked sessions and prioritized speakers I’d never seen speak before, especially speakers of color and those that identified as women and non-binary. The results of this choice hit me quickly: there were freaking amazing speakers I’d missed out on for years because I was stuck in my silo.

What made it worse was that because I had never seen them speak, when people would ask me for speaker recommendations for their conference, I inevitably recommended the same white guys. I perpetuated this cycle where people with opportunities got more opportunities and people without opportunities continued to struggle. When we’re excluding certain demographics, we’re lying to ourselves if we think that our old system was solely about who could do the best job.


What about including the LGBTQ+ community?
Honestly, I would love to do this but I haven’t figured out a great way to do so. In particular, I’m not sure how to go about determining how individual speakers identify as well as determining what the percentage split should be. I’d appreciate suggestions in the comments.
Update 12/8/22
One point I’m now better understanding thanks to feedback on this blog post is how does someone using an inclusion rider determine which attributes are included or not?

I’m realizing that I’ve been including attributes that are easier to determine without asking and not necessarily the attributes that matters most. This will be something I hope to figure out better over time.


I’m sharing this blog with all its imperfections to show where I am on this journey and to normalize conversations about making things equitable in education. Someday I hope to look back on what I’ve written with embarrassment because I’ve figured out ways to do even better.

For example, something I’ve been working on recently is going beyond equitable representation to ensure keynotes and featured speakers are receiving equal pay. I’ve come to realize that I often ask for more money than speakers of color and people who identify as women or non-binary. This would not feel fair to me if I was receiving less money.

So, I’ve begun doing something about it and worked with two organizations to ensure that all keynotes/featured speakers get paid equally. So far this has meant that I wind up getting paid up to 50% less than I normally charge. In return other speakers have received double or triple what they’d normally make. Again, I don’t have this fully figured out and I’m sure I’ll make some changes over time, but these are the kinds of things we need to be talking about.

What do you think? What am I missing? What am I wrong about? What could I do a better job with? Please let me know in the comments.


  1. As an African American educator of many years, I am excited to see your public acknowledgement and willingness to address the issue in a direct manner. We have much work to do with especially in diversifying our teacher ranks to reflect the students we serve. Again thank you

    • Thanks Willie. You said it well. When our speaker lineups don’t match the communities they serve, something is wrong and needs to be corrected.

  2. Thank you for this post, Robert. I think what moves me most is that you didn’t have to do any of these things, and you certainly didn’t have to publicly describe your actions. It is clear that these things are important to you now, and I am here for all of it.

  3. Wonderful post. I’ve been impressed with your rider clause and am glad to hear about some of the responses you have. More positive than I would have expected, definitely. I hope others are doing similar riders.
    I think including 2SLGBTQIAA+ in a rider is great, and difficult. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, but how might affect closeted people, or trans/non-binary people who aren’t ready to be out, but are featured speakers? I know it’s a whataboutism, but as an out bisexual man married to a cis-gendered woman, being out doesn’t mean much beyond a flag in my classroom and a willingness to share my dating past in the right circumstances. I’m curious what others think because I’m sure there’s a good solution that doesn’t require people to check a box putting themselves to apply to speak.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Ethan. I didn’t know. As some people have pointed out on Twitter, two worthwhile questions to consider include:
      – How do we decide what factors we account for? Race/ethnicity? Gender? Religion? (Dis)ability? LGBTQ+?
      – How do we reconcile figuring out how people identify AND respect that this may not be information that they want to share?

      A takeaway I’m having is that the factors I’ve included in my inclusion rider are more about ones I can more easily verify without asking, not necessarily the only ones that are important.

  4. I appreciate the thought you’ve given and the modeling you are doing for others with this blog post. I agree with Ethan that the idea of disclosure is difficult, personal, and even dangerous for some folx re: 2SLGBTQIA+ people and dis/abled folx. When it comes to these “invisible” identities (though they are not invisible to some), I think shifting our thoughts to include elements of belonging, in addition to representation. So for example, the rider can include elements such as the presence of gender neutral bathrooms and the option to select pronouns at registration, ASL interpreters for at least all keynote and featured speakers, having masks available and strongly recommended (with exceptions for those who cannot mask for disability reasons of course), affinity spaces for BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ identified folx, as well as disabled folx, making sure at least one session on the program is dedicated to inclusion of each of these identity groups, and other ideas that folx recommended in this document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BfoqbJHqgIetbsQ3S_eNmGWvnZMBu6iLgJbUwsNL06s/edit or that I expressed as cause for distress in my blog post about NCTM LA https://www.thequeermathematicsteacher.com/uncategorized/where-do-we-go-from-here-reflecting-on-nctmla22-and-the-slow-violence-of-traumatic-math-spaces/. Obviously, this might be a lot to try to tackle as an individual, but they can be starting points for thinking about what we can all do to demand spaces that are safe and welcoming for all. That alone will begin to diversify who is in the room and even feels safe seeking out these opportunities.

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