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How To Avoid Tokenism

A large problem when companies try to implement diversity is tokenism. This doesn't stop at just businesses but can go as deep as the arts, movies, tv and even books. Tokenism feels like you're just checking something off your list and not truly embedding diversity into your brand.

To avoid cringe-worthy branding with tokenism, I've created a shortlist of ways you can avoid it. This is only the beginning. If you feel like you have unknowingly implemented tokenism into your business strategy then these are the first steps you can take to bring change and unlearn.

So let's dive in.

1. Take Responsibility.

Maybe you've noticed that you've been using a token, or perhaps you haven't been as diverse in your images or messaging as you thought. Look around and see how you can improve to ensure you are part of the solution.

If you realized you’re part of the problem, accept it, apologize and share how you’ll be changing! When you ignore the problem and suddenly make changes, it begins to feel like you're hopping onboard a trend.

Perhaps because I’m a WOC I always ensure my adverting varies, trying to add POC throughout. Like my WCW posts on Instagram. I purposely try to mix up the crowd, representing strong powerful women of colour who don't always get recognition as well as giving a platform to people from all walks of life, including those who are very accomplished and others that are just starting out. This is all very intentional. It’s about taking action and doing the research to find people! It may take me longer but it’s worth it for what my brand represents.

2. My Skin Is Not A Trend.

This famous quote by Deepica Mutyala, founder of Live Tinted has resonated with me since she launched. Over the last few weeks, we have seen many brands suddenly have BIPOC models - which is amazing! But it's not about doing it once or when it's trending. It's about always asking yourself - does this photoshoot look diverse? Am I representing everyone I want to attract? Make this a part of your core belief in branding and trust me it will get easier!

Need an example - just look at amazing brands like Knix and Live Tinted!

3. Don’t Stereotype!

This is one of the biggest factors of tokenism. When people show up as a stereotype it is not an accurate representation. In fact, it is diversity gone wrong. This is cringe-worthy branding. Avoid this by doing your research, understanding diverse communities and asking questions when you're unsure.

4. One person doesn’t represent everyone in a community.

Don’t just stick to one model, one photographer or one perspective - change it up and see how you can diversify your community to build something that brings more to the table.

5. Check your vendors and collaborators.

Are you just adding someone in for the sake of not "looking bad"?

It's not just about the way you look but who is representing your brand. Don’t just “hire and forget” with vendors you're currently working with either. Check-in to ensure your message still aligns. You can also find qualified POC from all walks of life. That excuse isn't valid. It's a matter of looking - trust me we are out there!



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