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 The initiative isn’t perfect, but the act of codifying standards shows the Academy’s positive trajectory toward diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond tokenism, as well as its acknowledgement of its white male–centric past. Jeremy Hsing, Fortune, "Oscar nominations are less white this year—but the Academy still has a long way to go," 24 Apr. 2021 Challenges related to tokenism, the fabrication of competition between female artists and treatment of the problem with lip service only are also cited as key issues facing women in music. Katie Bain, Billboard, "Women Making Music Study: Sexual Harassment Is 'By Far The Most Widely Cited Problem'," 25 Mar. 2021 To this day, there is still a lot of tokenism or quota filling, where brands are just checking off the diversity box to display diversity in their marketing and give the appearance of inclusion. Gabby Shacknai, Forbes, "12 Asian-American Founders On Why The Beauty Industry Needs To Take A Stand Against Asian Hate," 27 Feb. 2021 Other Wall Streeters, though, have funded charter schools and scholarships to help disadvantaged youngsters make their own way, in line with their own gifts and dreams, rather than as future candidates for tokenism and cronyism. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "A Nasdaq Chief’s Diversity Stunt," 8 Dec. 2020 As a Black woman, Kisha has navigated what many describe as Working While Black—an emotional tax of grind culture, isolation, code-switching, tokenism and the fear of failure and its impact on your community’s advancement. Noel Cody, Essence, "Beyond Diversity: The Woman Spearheading Gap Inc.'s Next Phase of Inclusivity," 2 Dec. 2020 Micromanagement, tokenism, overwork, inadequate compensation and public fighting between Roth and Seiden were among the grievances. Washington Post, "In a stunning turn, Ari Roth resigns from Mosaic Theater, the D.C. company he created," 18 Nov. 2020 New Zealand's Parliament has had Māori seats since 1867, soon after the country was founded, but these have sometimes been seen as tokenism. Julia Hollingsworth, CNN, "New Zealand has just elected one of the most diverse parliaments in the world. Here's how it stacks up," 16 Nov. 2020 Some members told me that there also seems to be a sense of tokenism in the industry—the idea that only a few instructors of color can attain fame in the white world of fitness. SELF, "What It Means to Be Black in Fitness," 1 Sep. 2020

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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The first known use of tokenism was in 1960

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Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tokenism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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

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