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Affirmative action is a phrase referring to a policy in which an individual’s color, religion, sex or national origin are considerably taken into account with the sole purpose of increasing opportunities provided to the underrepresented parts ad members of the society (Arcidiacono & Lovenheim, 2016). Today, businesses have been at the forefront of implementing affirmative action programs towards increasing the numbers of people from specific groups within institutions as well as other areas of the society. With affirmative action, there is a particular focus on demographics with historically low representations in positions of leadership, as well as professional roles. Consequently, affirmative action can be considered as a means towards countering historical discrimination against particular groups of individuals in the society. For instance, in the United States the implementation of affirmative action programs has been used as a practice of remedying the negative consequences of past discrimination especially in matters revolving around recruitment, hiring, training opportunities, and even promotions.
Through affirmative action, many employers have achieved a more equal and diverse working environment. There is a need for organizations to continue with affirmative action policy in their personnel hiring and management. This research essay is motivated towards discussing the various organizations covered by affirmative action, the historical background of the program, as well as both the positive and negative implications of affirmative action (AA). Finally, there will be a defense as to why organizations should not abandon AA in line with the positive consequences it has brought in different workplaces.
According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), AA must be taken by covered employers in their attempts to recruit as well as advanced qualified minorities, women, persons living with disabilities, and other protected veterans. As such, AA includes but is not limited to training programs, outreach efforts, and other positive steps geared towards ensuring equality in all procedures at the workplace. It is important that employers motivate employees to adhere to written personnel policies set out by management to instill a sense of responsibility and accountability (Hollenbeck, Noe & Gerhart, 2018). As such, all employers with written affirmative action plans and programs must ensure their implementation while at the same time keeping them on file and updating them annually. Keeping them on file will allow a firm to access a situation and determine the best course of action based on previous action plans and programs. These plans and programs can also be used as a backbone for future programs that the company may decide to implement.
What the state department of labor suggests is that all employers are required by law to have in place AA plans and procedures that ensure there is no discrimination or prejudice occurs in the workplace. For instance, the office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is tasked with the responsibility of monitoring contractor and subcontractor compliance with the nondiscrimination and affirmative action provision of VEVRAA. Most importantly, some laws and regulations cover various areas of affirmative action. Some laws focus more on the hiring process, while others might be geared more towards sustaining a diverse workforce in order to enhance equality.
First and most importantly, it is worth mentioning that AA laws are “policies instituted by the government to help level the playing field for those historically disadvantaged due to factors such as race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. These laws typically pertain to equal opportunities in employment, education, and business” (Anderson & Golland, 2016). The top priority of AA is to ensure that potential candidates are selected solely based on their skills. Another huge goal of AA is to have employers treat employees equally without favoritism being a factor. Favoritism that results from a preference to a certain race, gender, or religion is discouraged and results in possible fines, temporary suspension, or termination.
Today, most people can attest to the effects of AA in different places. For instance, most jobs, as well as school applications in the US, might ask information regarding the applicant like ethnic background, gender, and veteran status. However, such instances have drastically reduced due to the implementation of AA plans and programs. A perfect example is when many people fill out job applications. My first university job asked for more general questions instead of trying to be specific. Moreover, through the DOL, it has been observed that most, if not all employers follow the regulations of AA to the latter to avoid being at loggerheads with the government (Anderson & Golland, 2016).
Affirmative Action in the US was first created by “executive order 10925” that was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Accordingly, the executive order required to ensure that government employers could not discriminate against any employee or applicants seeking employment due to their race, creed, color or national origin. The order asked that employers use affirmative action towards ensuring that all candidates are selected based on their skills and qualifications. Once employed, individuals should be treated equally without showing any discrimination or prejudice.
In 1965, the president extended AA affirming that the government was purely committed to promoting equal employment opportunities. Later in 1967, AA was extended by “executive order 11375” to women adding “sex” to the list of protected categories. This order was a huge victory for women because it allowed for more equality in the workforce for female employees. Specifically, this order gave many women the courage to apply for jobs that had previously been deemed “exclusively for men.” Other sources of affirmative action include but are not limited to nondiscrimination mandates of the Civil Rights Acts, the Americans Living with Disabilities Act, as well as other laws and regulations the protect groups like veterans (Anderson & Golland, 2016).
Overall, the primary purpose of AA remains to be promoting social equality through the preferential treatment of the members of the community considered as socioeconomically disadvantaged. In most cases, it has been established that these particular group of individuals has been socioeconomically disadvantaged due to historical reasons like slavery and oppression. However, AA policies are not without opposition. For instance, in America today, segregation and mistreatment of people due to race, ethnicity, and factors like sex have been on the decline. As such, more and more people have been raising pertinent concerns for the abolition of affirmative action citing reasons such as the policies no longer being tenable.
Moreover, many people still hold the firm belief that selecting someone primarily because they are members of a protected class at the expense of their actual qualification can amount to counter productivity to the society as a whole. For instance, if an employer is forced to have a certain percentage of “women to men ratio” then it can hinder someone’s ability to get a job who has the qualifications and experiences just to keep those percentages balanced. Some members of the above-protected categories of individuals have also been on the forefront of campaigning for the abolition of affirmative action holding that it is a way of creating an assumption that they lack the desired qualification. As such, some members of these unique groups believe that through Implementation of affirmative action, there is the creation of reverse discrimination through which non-protected class members are passed over in favor of less qualified diversity candidates.
As a program that was designed for the sole purposes of promoting educational and vocational access for underprivileged minority groups, AA has had both positive and negative implications at the workplace and the society at large. As earlier mentioned, the idea behind the programs and the driving force was to counter the socioeconomic trends that had historically developed in the US. As such, people were allowed to attend college as well as individual careers without any form of discrimination whatsoever (Jain, Sloane & Horwitz, 2015). However, with its implementation in a quota-based format, the program has been realized as allowing for under-qualified individuals to be accepted at the expense of the much-qualified persons because of their minority status. After over fifty years since inception, AA has brought forth both positive and negative implications.
First and most importantly, AA has promoted diversity in that it ensures achievement of a diverse environment. As a result, there is the addition of both perspectives and experiences to the situation which could otherwise be missing if the program was not implemented. Secondly, AA has to a greater extent eliminated socioeconomic differences. For instance, after the great recession ending in 2009, the overall income per household in the US rose by 6.9% over the next three years (Jain, Sloane & Horwitz, 2015). Thirdly, the implementation of AA policies and programs has ensured that there is a decline to stereotypes. Although not all stereotyping has been eliminated, a huge decline has occurred thanks to AA.
Through affirmative action, stereotypes can be stopped in that the plan creates interactions between groups that might have otherwise not interacted with each other in social settings. Additionally, AA has enabled and empowered people to chase dreams by pursuing careers that they never considered. Today, there are significant gaps for women in minorities in specific fields including but not limited to technology that could potentially benefit from the diversity that is widely promoted by AA. Consequently, through the implementation of AA, wage, minority, and gender gaps have been reduced since there are relatively more opportunities availed to people to receive higher education. Finally, AA goes a long way in reversing societal losses (Jain, Sloane & Horwitz, 2015). For an extended period, minority groups have been at a societal disadvantage. However, AA has played a vital role in changing the societal losses that the minorities have experienced.
On the other hand, through the implementation of AA, there have been noted some disadvantages that have significantly seen people champion for its abolishment. Opponents of AA argue that it is a way of promoting discriminating in reverse. The argument for the above proposition is that if AA is aimed at eliminating discrimination, then it is not the best approach to elimination of the vice. Secondly, AA is seen by many as a way of reinforcing stereotypes (Schmidt & Block, 2017). Equality should be upheld at all times at the expense of making assumptions that giving a personal preference over another just due to their minority status instead of their qualifications is a wrong perspective, particularly in quota-based systems.
Another clear issue is that the assumption of “women and minorities are inferior” should be abolished. Moreover, with the program exists, there is the tendency of sliding towards meeting the expectations as well as other regulations at the expense of seeking out highly qualified persons. Further, AA changes accountability standards by being reactive at the cost of proactivity which can significantly create equality. Finally, the implementation of AA is a way of extending personal biases. Instead of trying to work around discrimination, we should confront it head-on so that we can evolve our society instead of attempting to revolutionize it.
Through affirmative action fostering diversity in educational and professional settings, the policy is needed since it goes a long way in facilitating the integration as well as tolerance of both women and minorities in the US. Consequently, there has been added innovation, growth as well as progress in the economy. Moreover, not only does affirmative action ensure equal opportunity for social and economic advances but also benefits everyone through exposure to diverse viewpoints and backgrounds (Klijn, Pais & Vorsatz, 2016). Most importantly and as earlier discussed, affirmative action does not create racial or gender preference but removes obstacles to fair access faced by women and people of color within the society.
Critics of affirmative action suffer predominantly from a short-sighted refusal to see the myriad benefits of diversity holding a belief that the playing field is naturally level. However, affirmative action does not only provide answers to ensuring diversity in our institutions but rather adds to the potential of the society and economy by ensuring equality in both access and representation across all sectors of our predominantly diverse society. As a world leader, America can significantly shape the direction of the world through its AA efforts. It is clear that AA is changing the workforce environment. Jobs that were predominantly occupied by men or certain “races” are starting to be occupied by people of all ages, sex, and ethnic background. Although AA’s top priorities are being fulfilled, there is still room for improvement. With the help of compliant employers and HR managers, America’s workforce can become more diversified.
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