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Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business

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An award-winning journalist shows how workplace diversity initiatives have turned into a profoundly misguided industry--and have done little to bring equality to America's major industries and institutions. Diversity has become the new buzzword, championed by elite institutions from academia to Hollywood to corporate America. In an effort to ensure their organizations An award-winning journalist shows how workplace diversity initiatives have turned into a profoundly misguided industry--and have done little to bring equality to America's major industries and institutions. Diversity has become the new buzzword, championed by elite institutions from academia to Hollywood to corporate America. In an effort to ensure their organizations represent the racial and ethnic makeup of the country, industry and foundation leaders have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to commission studies, launch training sessions, and hire consultants and diversity czars. But is it working? In Diversity, Inc., award-winning journalist Pamela Newkirk shines a bright light on the diversity industry, asking the tough questions about what has been effective--and why progress has been so slow. Newkirk highlights the rare success stories, sharing valuable lessons about how other industries can match those gains. But as she argues, despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, organizations have, apart from a few exceptions, fallen far short of their goals. Diversity, Inc. incisively shows the vast gap between the rhetoric of inclusivity and real achievements. If we are to deliver on the promise of true equality, we need to abandon ineffective, costly measures and commit ourselves to combatting enduring racial attitudes


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An award-winning journalist shows how workplace diversity initiatives have turned into a profoundly misguided industry--and have done little to bring equality to America's major industries and institutions. Diversity has become the new buzzword, championed by elite institutions from academia to Hollywood to corporate America. In an effort to ensure their organizations An award-winning journalist shows how workplace diversity initiatives have turned into a profoundly misguided industry--and have done little to bring equality to America's major industries and institutions. Diversity has become the new buzzword, championed by elite institutions from academia to Hollywood to corporate America. In an effort to ensure their organizations represent the racial and ethnic makeup of the country, industry and foundation leaders have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to commission studies, launch training sessions, and hire consultants and diversity czars. But is it working? In Diversity, Inc., award-winning journalist Pamela Newkirk shines a bright light on the diversity industry, asking the tough questions about what has been effective--and why progress has been so slow. Newkirk highlights the rare success stories, sharing valuable lessons about how other industries can match those gains. But as she argues, despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, organizations have, apart from a few exceptions, fallen far short of their goals. Diversity, Inc. incisively shows the vast gap between the rhetoric of inclusivity and real achievements. If we are to deliver on the promise of true equality, we need to abandon ineffective, costly measures and commit ourselves to combatting enduring racial attitudes

30 review for Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Goodreads giveaway win!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** Today, diversity is a hot topic in the United States. It is the topic of countless corporate meetings, professional workshops and online discussions. There are college programs for people who want to learn how to be diversity czars in the workplace. There is much talk over how far we have come since the last century. However, journalist Pamela Newkirk in her new book Diversity, Inc: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** Today, diversity is a hot topic in the United States. It is the topic of countless corporate meetings, professional workshops and online discussions. There are college programs for people who want to learn how to be diversity czars in the workplace. There is much talk over how far we have come since the last century. However, journalist Pamela Newkirk in her new book Diversity, Inc: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business examines just how short we have fallen when it comes to delivering on diversity in the workplace. For the purposes of this book, Newkirk looks at diversity in many fields but pays special attention to art and entertainment, academia and corporate America and how it affects the three largest ethnic minorities in the United States: African American/Blacks, Hispanics/Latinx and Asian Americans. There are numerous campaigns and millions of dollars spent in these industries pushing diversity initiatives that are supposed to increase the number of ethnic minorities represented. However, as Newkirk shows this has not resulted in workplaces resembling the ethnic makeup of the United States. For example, from 1985 to 2016 “the proportion of Black men in management at all US companies with one hundred employees or more barely budged, from 3 percent to 3.2 percent.” Black, Hispanics and Asians as well as women remain disproportionately underrepresented in many fields. How is this possible when it seems companies and academic institutions seems to be pushing diversity left and right? According to Newkirk it is: “Impossible to understand diversity without exploring the big business of it, the tension between the rhetoric and expenditures, and the chronically disappointing results.” Newkirk examines each industry in question and examines its it past issues with diversity, the diversity efforts tried or currently in place and how those diversity efforts have panned out. The author gives the reader a historical background on the diversity issues of each industry. She does a good job at providing statistics which unfortunately in most cases provide a dismal view of the effectiveness of diversity programs. “Perhaps most surprising is that many of the fields considered the most progressive, such as the arts and entertainment, are the least diverse…” But the author also highlights some successes of diversity initiatives: Coca Cola’s efforts after a large class action lawsuit and the NFL’s use of the Rooney Rule, which mandates that at least one minority candidate must be seriously considered for a coaching position. Newkirk does not just point out how diversity efforts fail but why. She, along with others in the field, sees that a lack of support from leadership can doom any efforts to failure. Many diversity professionals find that “while they work in the trenches and are held to account for workplace tensions and uninspiring results, many critics ignore the extent to which their success-or that of any initiative they deploy-wholly rests on the will, intention, and competence of those at the top of the institutions they serve.” This book shows that without the support of leadership and more inspired ways of encouraging diversity, things will continue to stay the same no matter how much money or fancy campaigns we throw at the problem. If you’re interested in an in-depth look at how diversity in the workplace, academia and entertainment has been handled and why we seem not to have made much headway then this book will most certainly be of interest to you. Rating: 4 stars. Would recommend to a friend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    "During more than three decades of my professional life, diversity has been a national preoccupation. Yet despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, progress in most elite American institutions has been negligible. [...] Why, after five decades of countless studies, public pledges, and high-profile initiatives, is diversity lagging in most elite fields? And why do many White Americans believe that racial progress has been much better than the numbers "During more than three decades of my professional life, diversity has been a national preoccupation. Yet despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, progress in most elite American institutions has been negligible. [...] Why, after five decades of countless studies, public pledges, and high-profile initiatives, is diversity lagging in most elite fields? And why do many White Americans believe that racial progress has been much better than the numbers suggest? This is the research question that Pamela Newkirk, an award-winning journalist and professor at NYU, poses. She posits that the diversity conversation began in 1968 with the release of the Kerner Commission's report on the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, calling for the inclusion of Black Americans in all institutions. Since then, no matter how often the topic comes up in lawsuits, affirmative action in higher education, #OscarsSoWhite, etc., we haven't seen a fundamental shift in the numbers of people of color in elite positions. Not only that, but there is now a billion-dollar industry around diversity, with millions of positions for diversity and inclusion consultants being advertised every year. Newkirk focuses on three industries in particular: Hollywood, academia, and corporate America. She recounts the history, often shameful, of these three institutions when it comes to how they have portrayed and treated people of color. (A note that Newkirk deals only with racial diversity in this book, but acknowledges that other forms of diversity are part of the greater conversation.) She does a fantastic job at taking these industries to task, pointing out how they have succeeded, but more importantly, how and WHY they have failed to make significant progress. What I found most compelling about this book is Newkirk rooting the argument for diversity and inclusion in the greater conversation about race, equality, and discrimination in America. This is a fundamental question when it comes to diversity - just look at Supreme Court decisions about affirmative action and you'll see justices of the United States questioning why diversity is important. In a political moment like this one, diversity is not just about proportional representation. It's about decisions being made by people who understand the world differently than the white male experience. It's about confronting that race relations in this country - racism, police brutality, voting rights, mass incarceration, etc. - will not change until we both reckon with our shameful history and work hard to erase it. The reason that racism is so pervasive today is the same reason diversity initiatives have not succeeded, perfectly summed up by this quote Newkirk shares, from Ford Foundation president Darren Walker: "Progress won't come without us being uncomfortable [...] People want to believe we can have diversity and not really get uncomfortable...It requires incumbent leaders and managers to change their behavior and practices. It means that institutions have to change incentive structures and to fundamentally interrogate their own behavior, which is very uncomfortable. There is so much more I could say about this book, but I recommend you read it for yourself. It is a fascinating work of history, but more importantly, a collection of valuable lessons learned on diversity, and what work needs to come next. Ultimately, shifts in diversity won't come about until we commit to restructuring who has power - and this will always come as a threat to those who currently have power. But if we want to truly commit to creating a more inclusive society and not just making empty promises, this is the work that needs to happen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Velez Diodonet

    "Progress won't come without us being uncomfortable. People want to believe we can have diversity and not really get uncomfortable...It requires incumbent leaders and managers to change their behavior and practices. It means that institutions have to change incentive structures and to fundamentally interrogate their own behavior."- Darren Walker, The Ford Foundation president Diversity is today's hot topic and "trend" but has anything really changed and has the nation moved far enough in the "Progress won't come without us being uncomfortable. People want to believe we can have diversity and not really get uncomfortable...It requires incumbent leaders and managers to change their behavior and practices. It means that institutions have to change incentive structures and to fundamentally interrogate their own behavior."- Darren Walker, The Ford Foundation president Diversity is today's hot topic and "trend" but has anything really changed and has the nation moved far enough in the right direction to call it progress? In this book, the author an award winning journalist and professor discusses the attempts to diversify in academia, Hollywood and corporate America. She illuminates what has worked and exposes the underlying truths and history of this nation that have become so engrained and institutionalized that have impeded real progress. She argues the main premise that diversity cannot happen without inclusivity on all levels of decision making. She argues the topic of diversity from business perspective and gives into what changes need to happen I order to see long lasting effects. I really enjoyed this book because the author provided the history and challenges of diversity to give greater context. She highlights the underlying biases and inherent racism that makes rapid change almost impossible. She is raw and honest in her assessment but offers great insight and solutions that need to be considered. This book is one that I would add to the list of books that everyone must read in their lifetime. Once you read about this topic, you will never be the same. The author prepares you to have difficult conversations and become an advocate for change. Thanks to Bold Type Press for the ARC and chance to give an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marya

    The author is an excellent writer, evidenced by the fact that I continued to read this book cover to cover even when it wasn't answering any of my questions. More than the first third of the book is devoted to backing up the premises - what does diversity even mean, what industries in the United States will the book focus on, and how these are industries not diverse. That takes a LONG time, though I suppose it works for an academic subject. Next, Newkirk talks about Columbia and Coca-Cola's The author is an excellent writer, evidenced by the fact that I continued to read this book cover to cover even when it wasn't answering any of my questions. More than the first third of the book is devoted to backing up the premises - what does diversity even mean, what industries in the United States will the book focus on, and how these are industries not diverse. That takes a LONG time, though I suppose it works for an academic subject. Next, Newkirk talks about Columbia and Coca-Cola's laudable efforts at diversity that ended up being effective. This takes a relatively short time. The last chapter of the book gives a breezy overview of the diversity industry without a whole lot of detail. And then it's over. I was hoping to learn more about the industry itself (much like how Paul Tough explores Admissions in his latest book on college education), but that content just isn't here. Like I said, the topic intrigued me and the writing was excellent. It just never explored that topic in detail.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bob Larson

    Prof. Newkirk has a strong point, but she took a long time to get there and often contradicted assertions made earlier -- sometimes even in the same chapter. She placed more emphasis on pointing out subconscious and systemic discrimination than looking for root causes, let alone solutions (e.g., she points out that black children are less likely to go into computer science because they're less likely to have a computer at home, but fails to suggest any remedy, beyond suggesting that if Google Prof. Newkirk has a strong point, but she took a long time to get there and often contradicted assertions made earlier -- sometimes even in the same chapter. She placed more emphasis on pointing out subconscious and systemic discrimination than looking for root causes, let alone solutions (e.g., she points out that black children are less likely to go into computer science because they're less likely to have a computer at home, but fails to suggest any remedy, beyond suggesting that if Google were really serious about its diversity initiatives it should look at the pipeline instead of addressing its current workforce).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy Moran

    Pamela Newkirk’s compelling book, Diversity, Inc. The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business, offers a fresh look at diversity efforts in Hollywood, higher education, and corporate America. With surgical precision, and supported by irrefutable data, Newkirk’s gripping analysis eloquently raises questions, diagnoses the problem, and offers a bold prescription for the realization of meaningful diversity and inclusion. This is the book I’ve been waiting for. It’s a must read! Dorothy P. Moran

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A thought provoking and well researched book on the topic of Diversity & Inclusion. By way of full transparency, I was interviewed by Professor Newkirk for this book. Her questions of me were challenging and fair, and she clearly wanted to get deep underneath the topic and how it played out in Corporate America, and this book gets it right. It will no doubt upset some folks in the D&I arena, but the impressive compendium of facts and data she lays out makes for a powerful compelling A thought provoking and well researched book on the topic of Diversity & Inclusion. By way of full transparency, I was interviewed by Professor Newkirk for this book. Her questions of me were challenging and fair, and she clearly wanted to get deep underneath the topic and how it played out in Corporate America, and this book gets it right. It will no doubt upset some folks in the D&I arena, but the impressive compendium of facts and data she lays out makes for a powerful compelling argument.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Anne

    picked this up for personal and professional reasons, author does a GREAT job supporting the narrative with hard data without causing analysis paralysis. From my personal HR experience, we often don’t have a seat on the table and/or leaders don’t value the HR side of the business and some HR people just don’t care. This profession has to do better.

  10. 4 out of 5

    LeRhonda Greats

    Such a great read. The billion dollars that people spend trying to hire a diversity director is not the only answer. We need to professionalize the work. Too often the person leading this work have to fight their supervisor because they are not educated to support this work moving forward across the organization.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chacha Centeno

    Feeling unseen, cringed at some of the terms used to define Hispanic people from "assumed" Spanish speaking countries, the lack of just Native acknowledgement in the effort to "diversify" and honor history...but I'd read the book again, and recommend it to those doing or trying to explain the struggle of EDI work.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Theodore Kinni

    5 stars for exposing the fact that decades of lip service to diversity and inclusion in business, media, academia, and sports have left us pretty much where we started in Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. 3 stars for the prescriptive advice for getting beyond it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    An important read that deep dives into diversity. Some examples shown are better than others but does get a little shallow when talking about the NFL. Although it’s accurate it needed to be a little more in depth with its data at times.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    The book was very informative, though at times I felt the same information was repeated. This might have been for emphasis, but after a while I felt the book could have been shorter. Overall, though, would recommend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    The last chapter is a profound must-read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Too much history, not enough examples of innovation to learn from.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bryan H

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Holcomb

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Armour

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Sams

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jen Mayes

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris Kuczynski

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sahar

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elyse

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shanda Vangas

  29. 4 out of 5

    Łukasz

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heidy Paterson

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