Authentic Diversity by Michelle Silverthorn

Authentic Diversity: How to Change the Workplace for Good is a book that will have admirers and detractors alike. Basing the career trajectory of an individual should operate under the same principles espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King when, in his famous speech, said he dreamed of a day when black children would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Diversity is a different subject, but another key subject Silverthorn addresses in her new book is how genuine equity in the workplace is a key element in making diversity work for companies and organizations – simply put, you can’t have authentic diversity without first adhering to principles of equity. Further boiled down to its essential components, Silverthorn argues that career rewards should be based on merit rather than institutional, social, or personal bias.


She did not arrive at this conclusion overnight. As she details in the book, Silverthorn once advised minorities, i.e. non-white males, that if they applied themselves towards assimilating into corporate or business culture, made their co-workers comfortable, and essentially jettisoned their own identities in favor of conformity, their chances of professional success grew exponentially. It is safe to say she no longer embraces that point of view. It is not incumbent on the individual, in her eyes, to mold and shape themselves into something false for public and professional consumption, but rather than onus falls on business leaders to foster an inclusive environment that makes the best use of individual talents while embracing them as they are so long as they fall within universally accepted standards of professional behavior – i.e. you don’t show up to work wearing flip flops, shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt.

She sets out a path for business professionals with decision-making powers to follow over the book’s fifteen sections. Authentic Diversity studies how thinking about diversity has transformed during the last 2-3 decades and provides coherent definitions of key ideas. It’s an easy book to follow, thanks particularly to her accessible and intelligent writing, yet she reinforces her ideas with a bevy of well-chosen research. When I say well chosen, I do not mean cherry-picked. She cites a wide variety of sources from respected observers and publications and makes a sturdy argument for the value of authentic diversity. In her eyes, token efforts are far from sufficient and like-minded readers will agree.


Those who disagree are unlikely to begin or finish a book such as this. Their minds were made up before the first page and little, if anything, Silverthorn says throughout the book will sway their position.   Authentic Diversity: How to Change the Workplace for Good, however, will stand the test of time as an important text about these subjects and it is safe to assume we will be hearing more from this CEO and founder of important firms such as Inclusion Nation again in the near future. Michelle Silverthorn’s voice, like those of many, will never be stilled.  She will continue fighting the good fight and, undoubtedly, notching large and small victories along the way.

Clay Burton