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The New Affirmative Action. By: Elizabeth Lane. What is Affirmative Action?. A brief history.

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the new affirmative action

The NewAffirmative Action

By: Elizabeth Lane

what is affirmative action
What is Affirmative Action?

A brief history.

In 1961, when the term affirmative action was first used in Executive Order 10925, the quest for non-discriminatory employment began. It wasn’t until 1965, when Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, that affirmative action became required by all government agencies as well as business with significant contracts with the government. As described by Carl Kogut and Larry Short, AA was needed to ensure fair employment during a time in which discrimination was prominent.

How is it implemented?

As described in Managing Human Resources, companies first conduct a “utilization analysis” to determine demographics of the current workforce to that of the companies. Next, if these percentages are not proportional, a plan is created in order to correct the underutilization of minority group members.

What is the exact definition?

As stated in Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of Affirmative Action today is “an

active effort (as through legislation) to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups or women”.

What are the intended benefits for companies?

In his article, Shawn Woodhouse describes how AA can enabled companies to “recruit, promote, and retain qualified members of excluded groups.” By working to level the playing field in the workforce, AA gave government agencies and contacted companies a taste of diversity, which really benefits a company. People who might never have been considered before were beginning to hold important positions and improved business and productivity for their company. An example of this is seen in Pearson Custom Business Resources text book. It describes how “greater creativity” is created because different types of people bring different ideas to the table. “Better problem solving” also resulted from AA because of “groupthink”, when all members decide on a mistaken decisions due to their same mindset, was less common. When different people are included into the

What changes have occurred?

  • Over the past 50 years, “by 2000, Congress and the executive branch had provided sufficient legislation and directives to eliminate underrepresentation of all minority group members in the federal workforce.” (Kogut, Short)
  • In Antonio Sisneros’ article "Revisiting Affirmative Action Case Law", it is descried how in the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Co, the Supreme Court ruled it discriminatory to create a required test that ultimately favors one race over another. This was a huge problem as many companies at the time would make unrealistic and unnecessary requirements in order to discriminate without having to call it discrimination. Once this case set the precedents for how companies could treat applicants, it made it harder to discriminate discretely.

mix, this homogenous way of thinking shrinks. “Greater system flexibility” is also mentioned as a beneficial attribute because the inclusion of different people can generate an an environment open to new ideas and alternate ways of doing things. Lastly, AA has lead companies to retain “better information” because each individual brings with him or her unique skills and different perspectives, which ultimately leads to data.

What is actually being seen in the workplace?

  • Instead of viewing this change as a potential benefit to their company, complaints from majority members are staggering, claiming unfair practices regarding the hiring process.

These people are resistant to AA because they believe AA consists of a quota based system that completely disregards hiring based on merit and performance.

To the majority group members, it is viewed as an initiative that hurts whites in order to help minorities, or in other words, is a form of reverse discrimination. In an article by Burns, Prue, and Schapper, they discuss how tension in the workplace has risen so intensely, blatant acts of disobedience are a constant occurrence and employee anxiety has caused “resistance to action”.

Not only is there now a strong tension within organizations, but Pearson Business Resources text book also describes how due to this feeling of resentment, high powered women and minorities are not taken seriously and therefor not given the respect that other authority figures are receiving. Due to this idea that majorities are now getting “the short end of the stick”, they are actually beginning to take out their frustration out on their women and minority co-workers. Overall, it is this lack of understanding among the workforce that is causing such strong tension and resentment and ultimately leading affirmative action to be less successful than it could be.

Because majority groups members feel that jobs are being taken by under qualified people simply because AA requires it, they resist the change.

“Preferential affirmative action patronizes American blacks, women, and others by presuming that they cannot succeed on their own.” – Alan Keyes


Effects on small businesses?

For some companies, it has become increasingly difficult to follow the regulations set forth by affirmative action. As we know, the percent of minority workers within the organization has to be proportional to the amount of minority workers in the labor market. Fred Fry describes how these requirements make it hard for little companies to compete in the labor market with larger, more established companies. Ultimately, it puts them at a competitive disadvantage and results in large fines imposed upon them.

Has it actually helped?

  • Even after the advances it has made, Kogut and Short describe how after “40 years of intensive affirmative action efforts the federal government continues to employ a disproportionate number of minority group members than would be expected from their representation in the labor force.” Even after years of tremendous effort and quite a bit of regulation, there still seems to be an unequal number of minorities who hold government positions.

And what about the private business sector?

  • Due to the nature of the affirmative action, it only affects government agencies as well as business that do a decent amount of contracting with the government. But when it comes to the private sector, there are no requirements to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.
The New Plan

Companies who adequately use the training practices are increase their diversity ratio discussed earlier, they will be given a tax break of 10%. This same tax refund will be given to companies who conduct aggressive outreach programs to bring in a qualified and diversified group of applicants

How will this help?

By doing this, majority employees will get a better understanding of the initiative and will be less likely to feel angry and resentful toward their new, diverse team. As Deborah Dagit,Silicon Graphics Director of Diversity Initiatives said, “Management training sessions are designed to help managers bridge communication gaps they might not even realize exist”. Unlike with the current program, affirmative action will not only extend into the hiring practice, but in every area of business, leading to a real change in the culture of our entire workforce. Not only will this plan effect government agencies and companies affiliated with the government, but any organization that desires to become more diverse and promotes this diversity through AA initiatives.

How will it be different?

  • Instead of focusing purely on the hiring process, the new affirmative action program should instead work on how to recruit a wider variety of people so that everyone is given a chance.It will encourage aggressive outreach programs to attract a wide variety of qualified and diversified people. Along with this, there will also be a mandatory training process that each company involved in meeting AA requirement should have to conduct that explains what it is, as well as how it can better the company. This training will be done company wide and will include current employees as well as new hires.

How will it help small businesses?

  • In order to help those small businesses that feel the struggles of meeting government regulation while also remaining in business, the new plan will give tax breaks for companies that conduct these training and recruiting practices. This tax break will also be extended to private companies who chose to promote diversity through the same training and recruiting practices.
how you can help
How you can help?
  • The same way in which people have changed the laws throughout history, this is the way that we will be able to change affirmative action to create a more equal society. By going to your politicians, writing letters, and showing your encouragement for not only the reenactment of affirmative action but the new plan proposed here.
  • Petition your government to hear your voice and together we can create a world in which everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. With this new plan, hopefully one day we will no longer need laws or initiatives to regulate equality in the workplace. Our culture is changing, its time business did too.
  • “Affirmative Action.” Merriam- Webster Dictionary. Legal Dictionary. 1996.
  • Fry, Fred L. "Affirmative Action How It Affects Small Business." American Journal of Small Business 5.2 (1980): 23-29. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
  • Gomez-Mejia, Luis, David Balkin, and Robert Candy. Managing Human Resources. 6. Boston: Pearson Learning Soluntions, 2010. Print.
  • Kogut, Carl A., and Larry E. Short. "Affirmative Action in Federal Employment: Good Intentions Run Amuck?" Public Personnel Management 36.3 (2007): 197-206. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
  • Kordys, Justin, et al. "White Americans' opposition to affirmative action: Group interest and the harm to beneficiaries objection." British Journal of Social Psychology 49.4 (2010): 895-903. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
  • Leporini, C. (1998). Affirmative action in the workplace. Focus on Law Studies , 8(2), Retrieved from
  • Sisneros, Antonio. "Revisiting Affirmative Action Case Law." Labor Law Journal 34.6 (1983): 350-363. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.
  • Wilcher, Shirley J. "Affirmative Action vs. Diversity." INSIGHT into Diversity (2011): 44-45. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
  • Woodhouse, Shawn. "The Historical Development of Affirmative Action: An Aggregated Analysis." Western Journal of Black Studies 26.3 (2002): 155. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.