Token Game: What is Tokenism in the Workplace?

what is tokenism in the workplace

Here we already talked about what is tokenism in the workplace and how to avoid it. And, this time, we are going deeper into layers of tokenism in the workplace. Referring to Oxford Dictionaries‘ definition of the term “tokenism” might help us have a better grasp of the concept. In reality, we mean by “tokenism” the practice of attempting to give the appearance of gender or racial equality in the workplace by making simply a cosmetic or token effort to achieve anything, such as by hiring a small number of persons from underrepresented groups.

What is Tokenism in the Workplace?

The “token” is, therefore, a “symbol” used to convey a semblance of inclusiveness and equal attitude in a professional context, which draws on the pool of minorities to create a sort of “shield” against possible accusations of discrimination and affix, thus, a patch to a telluric and systemic problem.
Which? A failure to include women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ people. That’s “the norm” for everyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male. Thankfully, because of advances in inclusive writing, we no longer have to communicate in archaic ways of talking.

Why People Play the Token Game

Therefore, it follows that the phenomenon of tokenism isn’t a genuine deed, but rather a response to the desire to provide the illusion of a – artificial – representation of the variety and minority groups in our community. So far we have given an answer to the question of what is tokenism in the workplace.
We see its nuances every day in the workplace and in collaborative settings: from the one woman in an otherwise all-male TV room to the one black character in a film with all-white protagonists to the inclusion of people with disabilities on professional boards to the “speck” of the homosexual friend in TV shows.
Tokenism, particularly in the media industry, pursues the opposite goal to the one it – deliberately or in bad faith – sets itself: to increase stereotypes and gender, race, or ability gaps.

Inclusion and Tokenism – What is Tokenism in the Workplace?

Being treated as a token often means being treated differently than one’s peers in the same industry due to the token’s perceived status as a “representative” of that group.
Tokenism happens when a member of a minority group is treated as a member of the majority group. In this scenario, one black guy is expected to represent the views of all individuals of African descent around the world. As a result, the prejudice and ghettoization that are already taking place silently are reinforced, and the structural transformation that we seek to bring about does not happen.

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