Affirmative Action

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What is affirmative action?


Affirmative action refers to a policy that is geared towards inclusivity. Considering all job candidates for an open role no matter what race, color, sex, beliefs, or national origin and prioritizing those candidates who are underrepresented would be one example. The objective of affirmative action is to increase opportunities for underrepresented groups or minorities in the field of employment and education. 

Affirmative action is practiced by many businesses and organizations to increase diversity in their workforce and members. This policy aims to provide equality in an attempt to counter historical discrimination against specific minority groups. 


How did affirmative action come about? 


Affirmative action in the United States began in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, Executive Order 10925 was issued by President John F. Kennedy. It included a provision that stated that government contractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." 

Executive Order 10925 aimed to make accessibility to good employment options available to those who had been previously discriminated against. The order’s effect rippled to military contractors, public schools, and public universities. The government wanted to affirm its stand in providing equal opportunity to all candidates who are qualified. This was an important effort leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation. 


What are examples of groups under affirmative action? 


The goal of affirmative action is to overturn or counteract the discrimination that some groups have been historically subject to in the past. Efforts to allow equal opportunities to help racial and religious minorities, as well as women, were taken. 


How has affirmative action been perceived? 


Since its introduction in the 1960s, the policy of affirmative action has gained both strong support and much criticism. Supporters of affirmative action laud its objectives and say that there is still little diversity that exists in media, businesses, and even positions of authority. They say that the efforts must prevail to achieve equality for underrepresented groups. 

On the other hand, critics of affirmative action say that the policy has not affected much change and that the costs outweigh the benefits. Additionally, critics of the policy believe that businesses are forced to make undue accommodations to be compliant.

Affirmative action is presently banned in nine states in the US. These are California, Washington, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Idaho. Texas had a ban in 1996 up until 2003.


How can businesses align with affirmative action?


While some advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action remain controversial today, its core objective of equality and inclusion should be practiced by companies and organizations. Hiring practices and employee evaluations must be objective, without any bias towards a person’s race, color, sex, beliefs, or national origin. HR professionals, in collaboration with business leaders, must remain vigilant. From job descriptions to employee evaluations, they need to ensure that there is no room for discrimination in the workplace. 

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