Bestselling Author of Covering and Speaker on Corporate Diversity and Inclusion
Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the NYU School of Law. His new project is “Uncovering,” a groundbreaking contribution in the ongoing war for talent, which deals with, among other things, “covering” in the workplace. The blockbuster report looks at the track record of corporate inclusion, and makes bracing recommendations for how to expand prevailing attitudes about leadership, hiring, promotion, opportunities, and long-term growth. (It was co-authored with Christie Smith at Deloitte Consulting, and has been featured in the mainstream media, including at Forbes.)
Yoshino is also a trusted speaker on same-sex marriage in America, having covered the topic for nearly two decades, from various angles: personal, political, legislative, even economic. In his groundbreaking book, Covering, Yoshino fuses legal manifesto with autobiography. In it, he argues that each of us “covers”—that, bending to societal pressure, we tone down an aspect of our personality to gain acceptance from the mainstream. A "common read" on many campuses, Covering was hailed by Publishers Weekly for its "tremendous potential as a touchstone in the struggle for universal human dignity." Yoshino is also author of A Thousand Times More Fair, in which he takes ten Shakespeare plays and ties them to a contemporary question of justice.
Educated at Harvard, Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and Yale Law School, Yoshino taught from 1998 to 2008 at Yale Law School, where he was the Deputy Dean and the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law. In 2011, he was elected an Overseer of Harvard University. A specialist in constitutional law, civil rights law, and law and literature, he has written for major academic journals such as the Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and Yale Law Journal. He also contributes to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Slate, and appears regularly on Charlie Rose and NPR.
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.
A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice
With a modern twist, Kenji Yoshino offers an inspired reading of ten Shakespearean plays, showing us how they provide parables of justice relevant to our times. With a great ear for Shakespeare and an eye trained steadily on current affairs, Yoshino considers how competing models of judging presented in Measure for Measure resurfaced around the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; how the revenge cycle of Titus Andronicus illuminates the "war on terror" and our military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq; how the white handkerchief in Othello and the black glove in the O. J. Simpson trial reflect forms of proof that overwhelmed all other evidence. Thousand is an altogether original book about Shakespeare and the law, and an ideal starting point to explore the nature of a just society-- and our own. This talk is appropriate not only for educational institutions that seek to remind students of the continuing relevance of the humanities, but also for law firms seeking to provide meaningful CLE (continuing legal education) programs.
A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice
Celebrated legal scholar Kenji Yoshino's first book, Covering, was acclaimed—from the New York Times Book Review to O, The Oprah Magazine to the American Lawyer—for its elegant prose, its good humor, and its brilliant insights into civil rights and discrimination law. Now, in A Thousand Times More Fair, Yoshino turns his attention to the question of what makes a fair and just society, and delves deep into a surprising source to answer it: Shakespeare's greatest plays. Through fresh and insightful readings of Measure for Measure, Titus Andronicus, Othello, and others, he addresses the fundamental questions we ask about our world today and elucidates some of the most troubling issues in contemporary life.
Enormously creative, engaging, and provocative, A Thousand Times More Fair is an altogether original book about Shakespeare and the law, and an ideal starting point to explore the nature of a just society—and our own.
Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights
In this remarkable and elegant work, acclaimed Yale Law School professor Kenji Yoshino fuses legal manifesto and poetic memoir to call for a redefinition of civil rights in our law and culture.
Everyone covers. To cover is to downplay a disfavored trait so as to blend into the mainstream. Because all of us possess stigmatized attributes, we all encounter pressure to cover in our daily lives. Given its pervasiveness, we may experience this pressure to be a simple fact of social life.
Against conventional understanding, Kenji Yoshino argues that the demand to cover can pose a hidden threat to our civil rights. Though we have come to some consensus against penalizing people for differences based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and disability, we still routinely deny equal treatment to people who refuse to downplay differences along these lines. Racial minorities are pressed to "act white" by changing their names, languages, or cultural practices. Women are told to "play like men" at work. Gays are asked not to engage in public displays of same-sex affection. The devout are instructed to minimize expressions of faith, and individuals with disabilities are urged to conceal the paraphernalia that permit them to function. In a wide-ranging analysis, Yoshino demonstrates that American civil rights law has generally ignored the threat posed by these covering demands. With passion and rigor, he shows that the work of civil rights will not be complete until it attends to the harms of coerced conformity.
At the same time, Yoshino is responsive to the American exasperation with identity politics, which often seems like an endless parade of groups asking for state and social solicitude. He observes that the ubiquity of the covering demand provides an opportunity to lift civil rights into a higher, more universal register. Since we all experience the covering demand, we can all make common cause around a new civil rights paradigm based on our desire for authenticity—a desire that brings us together rather than driving us apart.
Yoshino's argument draws deeply on his personal experiences as a gay Asian American. He follows the Romantics in his belief that if a human life is described with enough particularity, the universal will speak through it. The result is a work that combines one of the most moving memoirs written in years with a landmark manifesto on the civil rights of the future.