to·​ken·​ism | \ ˈtō-kə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce tokenism (audio) \

Definition of tokenism

: the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort (as to desegregate)

Examples of tokenism in a Sentence

Did the company choose her for her merits, or merely as an act of tokenism?

Recent Examples on the Web

Every day still there’s still resistance for curvy women in the industry, and there is tokenism for curvy women in the industry. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Models Kendall, Gigi, Ashley, and Paloma on Fashion, #MeToo, and Becoming a Brand," 11 Oct. 2018 When Franca commissioned you to make the Black Issue for Italian Vogue, that was a massive statement, even though some criticized it as tokenism at the time. Sarah Mower, Vogue, "Edward Enninful Talks Diversity, Kate and Naomi, and His Early Modeling Days Ahead of His CFDA Media Award Win," 31 May 2018 Two isn’t a magic number, but BlackRock is explicitly rejecting the tokenism that says putting a lone woman in the boardroom is evidence of a more attuned corporate culture. Helen Torley, STAT, "Diversity in the biopharma industry makes dollars and sense," 23 May 2018 But looking elsewhere for the Palme sent a message, too, defusing any possible charges of tokenism and alerting the outside world that this jury would ultimately hew to its own path. Justin Chang,, "The wonderful, improbable Palme d'Or triumph of Hirokazu Kore-eda's 'Shoplifters' at Cannes," 21 May 2018 Trump, Sanders and those making similar points arguing criticism of Haspel is hypocritical either do not understand the argument those wanting more gender diversity in the Trump administration are making — or at worse, are appealing to tokenism. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "White House is playing the ‘woman’ card in response to concerns about Gina Haspel," 7 May 2018 Still, diversity for diversity's sake—if not executed in a way that feels genuine and cogent—can come off as tokenism. Leah Bourne, Glamour, "Why So Many Fashion Brands Are Casting Their Own Employees In Ad Campaigns," 10 Apr. 2018 His conversation with Blagojevich about who to appoint to Barack Obama’s empty Senate seat reeked of tokenism, disrespect and dismissiveness toward African-Americans. Dahleen Glanton,, "Lack of exciting Democratic candidates could give us another four years of Rauner," 20 Mar. 2018 There was some carping by those who felt the statement didn’t go far enough, or was typical tokenism. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, "The Golden Globes’ 500 Shades of Black: Did It Work?," 8 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tokenism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tokenism

1960, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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The first known use of tokenism was in 1960

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More Definitions for tokenism



English Language Learners Definition of tokenism

: the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly

More from Merriam-Webster on tokenism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tokenism

Comments on tokenism

What made you want to look up tokenism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


characterized by aphorism

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