The History of Affirmative Action

Last Updated: 13 Apr 2020
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The history of affirmative action has its roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provided the initial legal basis for affirmative action for women in the workplace. Affirmative action is a policy to encourage equal opportunity and to level the playing field for groups of people who have been and are discriminated against. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, affirmative action, "Is considered essential to assuring that jobs are genuinely and equally accessible to qualified persons, without regard to their sex, racial, or ethnic characteristics.

Over the past few decades" roles for women in the workplace have increased. Many of the predominately male occupations have increasingly become more diverse. Affirmative action helps to promote diversity in employment and equality between genders. The effectiveness of affirmative action and Equal Employment Opportunity legislation has been vigorously debated for years, with advocates citing gains made by women and people of color in pay, organizational representation, and organizational status.

Women, in general, have been the main beneficiaries of affirmative action and will be the biggest losers if it is overturned. The number of women entering the professions, including medicine, law and accounting, has increased substantially in 30 years. Women of all races have increased their share of professional positions in corporations. However, women have yet to achieve equality in the workplace as the gap in wages continues. Nationally, women earn 74 cents for every dollar earned by men.

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A National Academy of Science Report found that a significant proportion of these wage gaps could not be explained by factors such as education or work experience. Affirmative Action promotes the hiring of qualified people. It does not mean people should be hired just because they are minorities. It helps to broaden the range of people to be considered for employment in hopes of creating a more diverse applicant pool from which to choose. Groups of people are often stereotyped. In the case of sex stereotypes, these are attributes that are imparted to individual men and women simply by virtue of their sex.

The impact of affirmative action on women may cause them to suffer the stigma of second-class citizenship as a result of preferential treatment, because they will be subjected to the presumption that they were hired not because of their qualifications but because of their gender. Affirmative action may therefore lead to the conclusion that the women hired under affirmative action are incompetent. If someone is thought to be hired or placed as a result of affirmative action efforts, then that supplies onlookers with a plausible and compelling explanation for the selection decision ndependent of the job incumbent"s qualifications for the position.

Then the individual may be assumed to have been hired only because of her sex, with qualifications irrelevant to the selection process. Sex bias also has been demonstrated in decisions about pay raises, promotions, and employee utilization and training opportunities. Although sex may only be taken into consideration after hiring a person for their qualifications, it may only be assumed that they received their position because of affirmative action.

Sometimes, affirmative action may create rather than alleviate problems for women by causing people to perceive them as possessing fewer of the characteristics deemed necessary for success in a traditionally male work context. If affirmative action promotes these negative conceptions, then there is a distinct possibility that rather than being a remedy for sex discrimination, it can be yet another contributor to the problem. Often, sex discrimination can be viewed through the "Glass Ceiling".

The Glass Ceiling refers to invisible, artificial barriers that prevent qualified individuals from advancing within their organization and reaching full potential. The term describes the point beyond which women managers and executives are not promoted. Although the barriers exist, it is hard to imagine how anyone can believe that treating people differently, or not promoting someone based on their sex is morally acceptable or financially responsible. Affirmative action policies are instrumental in providing women and minorities with the tools to help break through the glass ceiling, and create a more diverse workforce.

Affirmative action policies provide equal opportunity to those groups who have been systematically denied it. Affirmative action is not the source of discrimination, but the vehicle for removing the effects of discrimination. Affirmative Action plans do not discriminate against anyone competing for any position. They actually increase the pool of qualified applicants by using aggressive recruitment and outreach techniques. The policies developed from the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action legislation do make a difference and are still necessary to assure a more equitable workforce.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII is presumed to promote the hiring it is designed to protect. The logic underlying this presumption is simple: by making employers liable for failures to hire based on gender, the law raises the price of such discriminatory activity and produces less of it than would occur if employers were left completely free to hire whomever they wished.

Women are more likely to be promoted in organizations with human resource programs that have affirmative action policies that consider the demographics of employees. Affirmative action in employment encompasses a broad range of actions and programs intended to ensure a fair chance at job opportunities for all Americans. Although it is suppose to eliminate discrimination, affirmative action is sometimes thought to be a source of reverse discrimination. When affirmative action was first implemented it was designed to be temporary, and now more than 30 years later it is still being used.

The definition of it has grown and become far more intrusive than its designers could have imagined. Opponents of affirmative action believe no government law, program, or policy that makes distinctions based on race or gender can be beneficial. Government mandated reverse discrimination, under the politically correct guise of "affirmative action," has failed to help minorities in a positive manner and has succeeded in continuing the trend of racially divisive policy. The majority group in an organization may sometimes feel threatened by diversity, because it means sharing their space with people who are different from them.

Many people, both men and women, are opposed to affirmative action standards. Often, men do not like it because they think it will take away from their opportunities for employment or advancement within the organization. Some men also feel that they are being discriminated against just because they are men. Although affirmative action has been successful in helping women, they may still be opposed to the stigma attached to it if they are thought to be promoted due to the affirmative action standards, regardless of their qualifications.

Some critics believe that affirmative action overcrowds the workforce with minorities or women with substantially lower qualifications. In the last several years cynical forces have tried to use race and ethnicity to divide America by claiming that affirmative action is detrimental and unfair to the majority because the programs contain "quotas" and "preferences" for people of color and women. After all, it is often assumed that if women were as qualified, as men were, they would not need help from affirmative action.

This is a very negative connotation describing the women"s work ethic and the reason women have the need for affirmative action policies in the first place. Affirmative action is only in place to allow the opportunity for a more diverse applicant pool; the qualifications needed to perform the jobs remain the same. Both men and women can be equally qualified for a job, but the one that receives the offer should have an edge over the other candidate. Although some people view affirmative action as a form of reverse discrimination, it was originally conceived with good intentions.

It has helped society to create a more diverse workforce. Affirmative action strengthens the nation by helping to provide equal opportunities to those who have been excluded unfairly. Affirmative action programs were never intended to last forever, however they are expected to remain in place so long as discrimination continues to deny equal opportunity to women and people of color. Affirmative action in employment encompasses a broad range of actions and programs intended to ensure a fair chance at job opportunities for all Americans.

Affirmative action programs seek to remedy past discrimination against women, minorities, and others by increasing the recruitment, promotion, retention, and on-the-job training opportunities in employment and by removing barriers to admission to educational institutions. Because of the long history of discrimination based on sex and race, most affirmative action programs have been directed towards improving employment and education opportunities for women and minorities. Race, ethnicity, or gender may be but one factor considered among many others in evaluating qualified candidates.

Discrimination continues to permeate American society and results in too many lost opportunities for everyone. The simple reality is that we have not reached the day where an individual"s gender, race or ethnicity is no more important than the color of their eyes or hair. As General Colin Powell noted when speaking about the current state of discrimination, "We"re not where we want to be- We are where we gotta be. " Reducing the nation"s commitment to equal opportunity by eliminating affirmative action programs for women and other minorities does not move us in the right direction.

Until everyone is truly considered equal, affirmative action policies are needed to help ensure equality among genders. Affirmative action has been successful in promoting the advancements of minorities in the workplace. When affirmative action is used correctly, it is helpful by promoting equality for all. When it is abused, it has bad effects on society. Affirmative action may stigmatize or call into question the credentials of the qualified minorities. I believe that affirmative action was necessary to get where we are today in terms of equality.

We have come a long way since the 1960"s. Although, I think that if we were to do away with affirmative action, we would still continue to become a more diverse society. With women and minorities in the management positions of companies it is more likely that this diversification would continue even if we didn"t have affirmative action policies in place. This would probably eliminate some of the doubt people have when it comes to women being hired or promoted just because of affirmative action. It would totally be based on her qualifications.

As of now, we cannot dismantle affirmative action and other organizational initiatives aimed at promoting equality in the workplace, and assume that sex discrimination will not occur. Sex discrimination has a long history and has proved highly resistant to efforts to eliminate it. But it is equally clear that Affirmative action as it is currently constructed, creates its own set of problems for those it intends to help. I believe that affirmative action policies will soon not exist, and everyone will be considered equal regardless of race, origin, or gender.

Perhaps more than any other sentence in our rich written political heritage, these words from the Declaration of Independence embody the highest ideals of American democracy. We should remember these words and realize they are meant for every person in society. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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The History of Affirmative Action. (2018, Jun 16). Retrieved from

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