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Kenji Yoshino    

Professor at NYU School of Law & Author; Director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law and the Director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. A graduate of Harvard (AB), Oxford (MSc) and Yale (JD), he specializes in constitutional law, antidiscrimination law, and law and literature. He is the author of three books: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights; A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice; and Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial. Yoshino has published in major academic journals, including the Harvard Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. He has also written for more popular forums, including the New York Times, and the Washington Post. He makes regular appearances on radio and television programs, such as NPR, CNN, PBS and MSNBC. In 2011, Yoshino was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers for a six-year term (serving as President of that body in the 2016-17 academic year). He also serves on the Board of the Brennan Center for Justice. He has won numerous awards for his teaching and scholarship, including the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award in 2016, an honorary degree from Pomona College in 2018, and the Senior Peck Medal in Jurisprudence from Wabash College in 2021. He is currently working with David Glasgow on a book to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2022 about how to have diversity conversations.

Speech Topics

Uncovering Your Authentic Self at Work

Becoming an Ally to All

This talk was developed from a collaboration with Microsoft. It begins by looking at why people are rarely effective allies—noting that people often find themselves either remaining silent out of fear or barreling in uninformed. It then describes a three-stage model of allyship—from “Ally to One” through “Ally to Some” to “Ally to All.” To help people get to “Ally to All,” Kenji introduces the tool of the “empathy triangle,” which looks at the questions each ally should ask of the three parties in an allyship situation (the ally herself, the affected person, and the source of non-inclusive behavior). Among these questions are: “Am I informed enough to act?” “Am I helping the affected party as she wishes to be helped?” and “Am I separating the source’s behavior from her identity?”

Communicating with Agility

This talk is based on a forthcoming book (to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2022 and co-authored with David Glasgow). It explores how to engage in difficult conversations about identity in the workplace. The talk focuses on improving the conversational behavior of the more privileged parties in identity conversations, based on the understanding that they have greater power to change the dynamics of the conversation. It explores four bad behaviors in identity conversations (avoid, deflect, deny, and attack), the reasons why we engage in such behaviors, and how to fix those mistakes by adopting three “postures” in conversation: challenge-seeking, curious, and collaborative. The talk also examines how to give an effective apology and how to disagree respectfully in identity conversations.

Uncovering Talent: A New Model for Corporate Inclusion

Based on Kenji Yoshino’s book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, this talk examines the phenomenon of “covering”—a strategy through which individuals downplay a known stigmatized identity to blend in at work. The talk explains through both quantitative data and qualitative data that such covering occurs across all groups (with even 45 percent of straight white men reporting that they cover), and that covering is harmful to both individuals and organizations. It then explores solutions about how individuals can bring more of their authentic selves to the workplace.

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