top of page

Food & Beverage Media Has A Tokenism Problem — How Do We Create A More Equitable Future, Together?

This Toolkit for Recognizing, Disrupting, and Preventing Tokenism in Food & Beverage Media is part of our award-winning initiative, Equitable Representation in Media.


It draws from 2+ years of research, 100+ interviews with media professionals, and industry-wide Town Halls to help you:

🔍 Define tokenism & identify 6 key examples of tokenism in food & beverage media

🤯 Comprehend how tokenism operates in larger systems of oppression

🚫 Expose the false promises of tokenism that perpetuate its existence

💡 Draw inspiration from organizations driving progress in media

✊🏼 Take action to disrupt practices of tokenism at your workplace

❓What is Tokenism / Tokenization?

We use the below definition:

To recruit an individual or small number of people with marginalized identities in order to give the appearance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the workplace while ignoring and/or continuing the root causes of inequity.

The concept of "token" and "tokenism" date back to the Civil Rights Movement and have often been referenced in academia since then. A few examples:


Malcolm X’s interview with Louis Lomax (1963):

“What gains? All you have gotten is tokenism — one or two Negroes in a job or at a lunch counter so the rest of you will be quiet.” (In response to Lomax's comment, "But we have made some gains…")

Tokenism and Women in the Workplace by Lynn Zimmer (1988):

“The token's marginal status [is] as a participant who is permitted entrance, but not full participation…someone who meets all of the formal requirements…but does not possess the ‘auxiliary characteristics’ (race, sex, and ethnicity)... Consequently, they are never permitted by ‘insiders’ to become full members and may even be ejected if they stray too far from the special ‘niche’ outlined for them.”

👀 What Does Tokenism Look Like in Food & Beverage Media?

Tokenism presents in two key areas:


CONTENT: Food & beverage media treats BIPOC foods as trends with limited relevance.

  1. BIPOC-centered stories use language and visuals that reinforce stereotypical ideas;

  2. Are designated for only a certain "relevant" time (e.g., cultural heritage months); and

  3. Assumes uniformity by using one (or a few) individuals to represent an entire cuisine and/or people.

PEOPLE: Food & beverage media use token individuals to perform "diversity" for their readers.

​  4. BIPOC food professionals are rewarded for competing with one another for a few token spots;

  5. Pigeonholed into writing exclusively about their cultural background, regardless of interest; and

  6. Placed into situations without decision-making power over how their work is being represented

🎯 Why Does Tokenism Continue?

Tokenism is a form of systemic racism, sexism, classism, heterosexualism, etc. - not its solution. However, it continues to be perpetuated because it perpetuates two major falsehoods: ​


1. The organization that hires, supports, and promotes the token believes in equality for marginalized individuals, with internal and external systems in place to support them where necessary

2. Marginalized individuals have a chance to fight for a better future by achieving token status within the same systems that once oppressed them


Tokenism is embraced by those in power and the privileged majority because it offers a veneer of social progress without challenging the fundamental dynamics of existing oppression. This way, tokenism deflects and delays real change by encouraging inaction from all parties.

🛠️ Read the Full Toolkit

Join the thousands of media professionals who have already incorporated the insights from our 24-page toolkit to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces.


Take the first step towards combating tokenism via our comprehensive guide. Enter your email to gain full access to our entire Resources Library, including a digital PDF copy of our groundbreaking research on tokenism in the food and beverage media sector.

"The Studio ATAO toolkits contain real-life, actionable advice that is applicable to the day-to-day work of writers, editors, social and video folks, and managers and leaders. They are required reading for our staff when onboarding, and we've included them as essential resources in our DE&I work."


- Amanda Kludt,

Editor-in-Chief, Eater

📖 Table of Contents

What is Tokenism/Tokenization?

Tokenism & its relationship to systems of oppression

How Does Tokenism Happen in Food & Beverage Media?

6 ways that tokenism affects media workers & content

What You Can Do to Address Tokenism

Immediate actions for disrupting the current system


People, organizations, and publications leading by example

The Methodology of This Toolkit



Signup Form

💡 Looking For Customized DEI Support?

We also provide one-on-one client solutions tailored to your organization's DEI goals. We conduct internal Listening Tours to identify areas that would benefit from additional practice, and design a customized strategy to enhance existing practices to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture. 

📣 In Their Words

"Working with Studio ATAO on our white paper was a great learning experience for me. As an HR professional who is always tackling new DEI initiatives, I found it incredibly helpful to have their team not only as a resource but to hold us accountable for what we set out to do last year."

- Maggie Lansdale,

Former VP of People Ops, Apartment Therapy Media

Help us continue this work

If you've learned from our research & resources, consider supporting us by becoming a monthly patron or a one-time donation. We thank you for your generosity!

All contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Join the conversation on Discord

Discuss challenges & brainstorm solutions with other social justice-minded media professionals via our private Discord server!

bottom of page