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A disappointing progress
report on diversity and inclusion
by Theodore Kinni
Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business,
by Pamela Newkirk, Bold Type Books, 2019


acial and ethnic minorities make up 38.8 percent of the population
of the U.S. and a nearly equivalent share of its workforce. But mi-
norities represent only 17 percent of full-time university professors
and 16.6 percent of newsroom journalists. They are only 4.5 percent
of Fortune 500 CEOs and 16 percent of Fortune 500 boardroom directors. They
are 9 percent of law firm partners; 16 percent of museum curators, conservators,
educators, and leaders; 13 percent of film directors; and 6 percent of the voting
members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
These discrepancies haven’t gone unnoticed, but they also haven’t been
effectively addressed. “During more than three decades of my professional life,
diversity has been a national preoccupation,” writes journalist and New York
University professor Pamela Newkirk in the second paragraph of the preface to
her book Diversity, Inc. “Yet despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives,
and uncomfortable conversations, progress in most elite American institutions
has been negligible.”
Newkirk devotes most of Diversity, Inc., which is heavily focused on racial
inequality, and particularly, discrimination against African Americans, to
demonstrating this dismaying reality through a sometimes tangled mix of factoids
and anecdotes drawn from the arenas of academia, media, and business. The
bigger stories that emerge are all variations on the same theme: The lack of
progress by minorities in America’s elite institutions is a function of a political
and societal arc that has stretched across half a century.
It begins in the mid-1960s, when, just years after the infrastructure of
segregation had started to be dismantled, President Lyndon Johnson kicked off
his Great Society initiative, which, in part, aimed to right the wrongs committed
over centuries of racial and ethnic injustice. Deploying an impressive combination
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