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Kenji Yoshino    

Professor, NYU School of Law; Author

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 summa cum laude), Oxford (MSc as a Rhodes Scholar) and Yale (JD), he specializes in constitutional law, antidiscrimination law, and law and literature.

Yoshino 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 Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

Yoshino makes regular appearances on radio and television programs, such as NPR, CNN, PBS and MSNBC. In 2015, he became a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine’s podcast and column “The Ethicists.”

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 and on the External Advisory Panel for Diversity and Inclusion for the World Bank Group. 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, and an honorary degree from Pomona College in 2018.

He lives in New York City with his husband and two children.

Speech Topics

Uncovering Talent: A New Model for Corporate Inclusion

Only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are black. Only 4% are women. Years after companies have spent millions of dollars on initiatives meant to expand workplace inclusion, why has so little progress been made? Why are there still so few minorities in leadership positions? And what are the long-term consequences of not diversifying? In this powerful talk, Kenji Yoshino rethinks the conversation around workplace inclusion, and outlines concrete solutions for change. Drawing on his breakthrough paper, “Uncovering,” he addresses the enduring challenges that historically underrepresented groups continue to face. Many workers “cover” at work—meaning they downplay certain aspects of their identity in order, they think, to better fit in and to meet expectations. What is the fall-out from this behavior? While more overt kinds of discrimination are gone, a glass-ceiling still exists for certain groups, and Yoshino paints a clear picture of how this situation hurts innovation, competitiveness, talent acquisition, and, of course, the bottom line. Simply put: companies that don’t diversify will be left behind in the new global economy. How can they adapt? Yoshino’s talk is a positive, brilliant, and crucial chapter in the ongoing war for talent.

Kenji Yoshino on Same-Sex Marriage Laws

Same-sex laws are changing. In June 2013, the Supreme Court passed two landmark victories for gay rights in America). The ramifications for individuals, schools, and even corporations will be major and far-reaching. In this talk, legal scholar and bestselling author Kenji Yoshino tackles this momentous and complex question from several angles—everything from corporate to legal to human and civil rights issues are explored with Yoshino’s trademark empathy. With sixteen years of experience writing on these issues, Yoshino is uniquely qualified to balance history against the present moment—and to draft a comprehensive portrait of America’s near future.

Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights

In a culture where racial minorities are pressed to "act white", women are told to "play like men", and gays are dissuaded from engaging in public displays of affection, it is difficult to believe that we are as "diverse" as we'd like to think. Drawing on his experience as a gay Asian American, Kenji Yoshino examines the prejudices embedded in both American life and in Civil Rights legislation-- prejudices that hinder our ability to be our authentic selves. Key to his talk is the phenomenon of "covering," where people downplay stigmatized traits in order to blend into the mainstream. Moving past conventional discussions of identity politics, Yoshino explains the dangers of a society that claims to support racial, gender, orientation, religious, and physical differences but still routinely denies equal treatment of these people when they refuse to downplay their differences. With a hopeful vision of the future, Yoshino, one of our best legal minds, proves how the ubiquity of "covering" provides an opportunity to redefine civil rights and lift this legislation into a higher, more universal register.

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