Affirmative Action is a practice in the United States that focuses on providing remedies for the effects of past discrimination. When it is included in the workplace, the goal is to focus on providing employment-based opportunities for people who may have not had opportunities in the past. It is a practice which may be permitted for hiring practices, promotions, training opportunities, or disciplinary action.
Many employers in the U.S. are able to achieve an environment of diversity without reverting to the policies of Affirmative Action. There are, however, certain government contractors who must adhere to the rules which are published by the Department of Labor.
John F. Kennedy began the program in 1961 through the use of an executive order. Legal opinions have found that its practice could still exist if the reason behind its implementation go beyond past discrimination correction.
These are the advantages and disadvantages of Affirmative Action in the workplace to consider.
List of the Advantages of Affirmative Action in the Workplace
1. The practice of Affirmative Action equalizes local socioeconomics.
When Affirmative Action is practiced in the workplace, it creates more equality within the community. People from minority cultures or ethnicities are often faced with challenges in compensation, even when working in the exact same job as a white male. Women currently make 22% less than men do in similar positions. Except for Asian men and women, African-Americans and Hispanic individuals earn less per hour than people who are white. This program works to correct that issue.
2. It promotes diversity within the company culture.
By promoting a culture that is more inclusive and diverse, organizations are able to find strength and innovation that would not be possible otherwise. Did you know that women only hold 4.2% of the CEO positions in the 500 largest companies in the United States? There are more men named David in a Chief Executive Officer position than there are women. Teams that are diverse ethnically and racially outperform teams that are non-diverse by 35%. When blind applications are considered, women are 5 times more likely to be hired. By utilizing Affirmative Action, employers can stop the unconscious bias which occurs when companies hire with their eyes first.
3. Stereotypes are reduced when Affirmative Action is implemented.
You may have heard that the United States is becoming a divided, polarized country. The reason why that is occurring is because there is an internal preference to live with, work with, and be friends with people who are like-minded. One look at this effect is in how Congressional districts in the U.S. have evolved since 1996. The number of regions in the country which don’t have a “clear” or “leaning” preference for one political party have been reduced by 70%. Many of the decisions people make are based on their own stereotypes. This program helps to remove those ideas because it encourages people from different backgrounds and cultures to work together.
4. It creates an opportunity to reverse societal loss.
In the United States, 1 in 3 African-American men will spend time in jail at some point in their lives. For African-American women, the rate is 1 in 18. Even though the gap between minorities and Caucasians in prison has been tightening since 2009, there are still clear discrepancies in the figures. African-Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, but are 33% of the U.S. prison population. Many of the crimes committed are because of a lack of socioeconomic opportunities, which Affirmative Action in the workplace seeks to reverse.
5. The program forces employers to make justified decisions.
A 2016 study of employment applications, reported by Clear Company, revealed that people who had “white names” received 50% more callbacks than someone with a “Black” name. That rate stayed true across all occupations and industries. The reality of employment in the United States is that African-Americans are 16% less likely to be invited to a job interview than other cultural or ethnic groups. With this program in place, hiring managers must set aside their bias, real or unconscious, because they must follow the law.
6. Companies that practice diversity in their hiring practices earn more money.
When interviewed in 2016, managers said that if they had more cross-border communication opportunities, then it would improve the revenues of their company. Hiring someone who is bilingual is good for the bottom line. Across all industries and occupations, a worker with bilingual attributes earns 10% more revenue for their employer when compared to their single-language counterparts. On teams were there is gender diversity, an organization is 15% more likely to earn revenues that are classified as above-average. Most importantly, companies where true equality is practices earn 41% more revenue than non-diverse firms.
7. It gives companies an opportunity to search for unique talents.
For the kids who grew up in the slums and ghettos of the United States, finding a high-paying job is an almost impossible dream. That’s why an entire generation of kids pursued athletics with their schoolwork. It was their one chance to get their entire family out of poverty without resorting to gangs, violence, or crime. With the implementation of Affirmative Action in the workplace, talent can be sourced from anywhere without having it be screened out. There are opportunities to find success when there is skill or talent present, even if there isn’t a degree offered as evidence.
8. When employed in the workplace, Affirmative Action creates new business opportunities.
Employers must use Affirmative Action in their hiring practices if they want their firm to qualify for government contracts in the United States. A follow-up executive order by Lyndon B. Johnson is specific in its requirement that a company establish, then maintain an Affirmative Action policy to be awarded a government contract. Although the availability of this work varies with the administration that is in the White House, the revenues that are often available create a lucrative opportunity for companies that are wanting to expand.
9. It gives a business the opportunity to take a moral stand.
Taking a moral stand within the workplace creates indirect advantages for the organization. It tends to draw people toward their open positions who want to foster an environment which focuses on tolerance, equality, and justice. There is a reassurance provided with this program that speaks to the promise of full consideration for a job that is available. When organizations come out in favor of a specific issue, they can also attract new customers.
List of the Disadvantages of Affirmative Action in the Workplace
1. Affirmative Action attempts to correct discrimination by causing a new form of it.
The Cambridge Dictionary describes the word “discrimination” like this: “It is the treatment of a person or a particular group of people differently, in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated.” In politics, it is also described as a “prejudice against people and a refusal to give them their rights. That is why the legal opinion of Affirmative Action has changed over the years. Making up for past discrimination by creating discrimination is ineffective. A better solution is to provide educational opportunities, vocational learning, and other tools that help people change their circumstances. When this practice is enforced in the workplace, it might improve diversity, but it might also exclude the best people for the job.
2. Diversity must be planned to be beneficial for the modern organization.
Affirmative Action creates diversity for the sake of having it. Although every employer wants to bring in the best person for the job, when this practice is employed in the workplace, a person’s ethnicity or culture becomes just as important as their skill. We must create a planned diversity in the workplace to generate strength. If employers are hiring people in a way that helps them meet specific quotas, there is a good chance that this program will hurt them more than it will help.
3. With Affirmative Action, we are reacting to problems instead of solving them.
What does it mean to have an equal workplace? It should mean that every person, no matter what their race, skin color, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, gender, or any other point of separation, has the same opportunity to pursue their personal definition of professional success. Affirmative Action forces employers to look at socioeconomic issues when our priority should be to improve our educational infrastructure. We need mentoring programs instead of diversity quotas. One of the biggest issues with Affirmative Action is that it is reactive to societal problems and we must be proactive.
4. It reinforces stereotypes and bias instead of correcting them.
Although the purpose of Affirmative Action in the workplace is noble, it actually does the opposite of what is intended. It automatically assumes that hiring managers are biased toward people who are minorities. For those with a bias, either real or unconscious, that perspective reinforces the idea that one group of people are superior to the other. You might hear someone say, “That person wouldn’t have gotten their job if quotas or preferred hiring practices weren’t in place.” And there’s a good chance that they would be right.
5. We cannot legislate the personal bias of someone away.
In 2017, hate crime rose by 17%. In Seattle, WA the number of hate crimes recorded by law enforcement in 2018 were almost double of what they were the year before. Even if we go back to the Civil Rights Movement, we see the struggles that society has with classism, politics, and overt racism. Even the Civil War in the U.S. was fought over a state’s right to declare slavery has a legal activity. Instead of trying to force people into a different perspective, we must work together to show them that diversity is beneficial. Affirmative Action in the workplace seeks to revolutionize employment and we must seek evolutionary opportunities instead.
6. It reduces the impact of accomplishments that minority groups make.
Because society’s perspective is that Affirmative Action in the workplace hands someone their job, the impact of doing good work is reduced. The achievements are viewed as a result of the hiring program instead of what the employee was able to accomplish. This program may have been created with good intent, but over the years, it has turned into a problematic issue for many. Even when their personal skills and talents meet the job requirements, many minorities find themselves working hard, longer, and for less pay all because they must prove their worth because of this issue.
The advantages and disadvantages of Affirmative Action in the workplace do encourage a diverse workspace. It seeks out chances to create equality, reduce pay gaps, and provide employment opportunities to those who have their culture, ethnicity, or gender as a barrier. On the other hand, it could be argued that this type of program creates discrimination in a reverse direction, forcing others to pay for the sins of past generations without cause. Because of the gap between these two perspectives, Affirmative Action will always be a controversial issue to some on both sides of the debate.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. She is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.