Diversity, Inc. | Pamela Newkirk

Summary of: Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business
By: Pamela Newkirk


Get ready to dive into the intricacies of the diversity industry and its shortcomings as we explore ‘Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business’ by Pamela Newkirk. This book summary exposes the stark, persistent lack of ethnic diversity in various industries, from journalism to Hollywood. Despite public advances in addressing diversity issues, genuine progress remains elusive. As you read, we’ll uncover the reasons behind the failure to create equal representation and strategies employed by successful companies, like Coca-Cola, to promote diversity and inclusion. Finally, we’ll delve into the effects of the past on present diversity struggles and the possible solutions that could influence companies towards meaningful change.

The Illusory Shift toward Diversity

The lack of diversity across sectors in the US is not keeping up with the booming industry of diversity, making its progress minimal and inadequate. Ethnic minorities, especially people of color, are still underrepresented in most sectors, including journalism, fashion, and academia, with limited access to leadership positions. Despite the promises made by the journalism industry in the 1980s to balance racial demographics by 2000, only 16.55% of US newsroom jobs were held by Black, Asian, and Hispanic journalists in 2017. Companies like Facebook, Airbnb, and Apple have taken measures to increase diversity, but they still fall short of combating white nationalism and hate crimes. The author argues that the struggle for equality should not be seen as a zero-sum game, as it fails to address real threats like climate change and automation. The wealth of Blacks and Hispanics has substantially decreased compared to whites, and they have been consistently struggling with higher unemployment rates. Thus, the author emphasizes that true progress in diversity requires stepping out of the comfort zone and acknowledging the actual problem.

Hollywood’s Diversity Problem

Hollywood’s lack of diversity and inclusion has been a long-standing issue. Despite the success of movies with diverse casts, the industry continues to underestimate and undersell them. The industry’s culture of nepotism needs to change to offer more opportunities for minority filmmakers, lead actors, film critics, and directors. The NFL’s Rooney Rule, which increased the diversity of coaches by demanding recruiters include underrepresented candidates at the interview stage, could be a model for the film industry to follow. Despite some breakthroughs like Halle Berry’s historic Best Actress Oscar win in 2001, Hollywood still has a long way to go in providing equal opportunities for minority talents. The Hays Code, which banned any hint of intermixture between Caucasians and African Americans on the silver screen, has impacted the careers of many Black actors, such as Fredi Washington. Media advocacy groups, such as the ones that called for a boycott of Paramount Pictures in 2017, also play a necessary role in holding Hollywood accountable for diversity and inclusion issues.

Racism in American Universities

A 2018 Gallup survey shows that 80% of college presidents consider race relations on campus to be good or excellent. However, incidents of racism on campuses, accompanied by inadequate official responses, paint a different picture. The number of minority faculty members is still shockingly low, contributing to a lack of diverse perspectives in academic curricula. Minority faculty members feel socially isolated while minority students experience pressure to ignore racism. This leaves white students with no understanding of systemic oppression and racism on the campuses. Black students on college campuses experience racial profiling and stereotyping. Michael Middleton, the first Black law professor at the University of Missouri, founded the Legion of Black Collegians in 1968. The group pushed for the creation of Black studies programs and more scholarships for Black students. While such efforts did not yield results, Middleton’s tenure as MU’s interim president allowed him to make widespread changes, including appointing the school’s first chief diversity officer and investing $7 million in diversity efforts.

The Complicity of Universities in Slavery and Racism

The founding of prestigious universities in the US was aided by funds obtained from the slave trade. These institutions also played a significant role in propagating and justifying racist ideas. Today, universities are still dealing with their complex past. In 2018, a Confederate soldier statue was taken down by protestors at a North Carolina campus. Similarly, the controversy surrounding a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sparked a clash between white supremacists and those in favor of its removal. UNC appointed a task force to address this dark history and remove the name of a former KKK leader from one of their buildings. However, the board of governors rejected a proposal to erect a $5.3 million building, citing high costs. As per UNC historian Cecelia Moore, it’s naive to believe that legal segregation ceased 30 years ago. Today, universities continue to grapple with their complicity in slavery and racism and strive towards a better future.

The Challenge of Diversity in Higher Education

Students and faculty of color are underrepresented at top universities, and though diversity is considered important in admissions decisions, legal restrictions have limited the effectiveness of efforts to increase diversity. Attempts to increase diversity can also pit racial minorities against each other. Students for Fair Admissions recently sued Harvard for alleged discrimination against Asian applicants, but some observers suspect the group’s motives are to help whites rather than Asians. While diversity in higher education is essential, it continues to be a challenging issue requiring sensitivity and respect for the historical and ongoing struggles of different minority groups.

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