The debate that men and women be given equal employment opportunities in the workplace has been there since time immemorial and doesn’t seem to end in the near future. In his paper, Unfairness in the workplace, Smith (2007, p1), acknowledges the fact that for very many years “women have struggled to gain equality” This clearly shows the height of discrimination against the minority and disadvantaged groups, most of whom are women, in the workplace. It is in this regard that affirmative action was legislated in order to protect against the plight of the above mentioned groups.
The various practices in the workplace that are meant ensure equality in the sharing of positions with disregard to color, race and social status are collectively referred to as Affirmative Action. It also includes provisions for the monitoring of its compliance by seeking to establish standards of equality using a quantitative system to measure progress. (Affirmative Action Agency, 1990). This legislation was put forward so as to recognize the ever increasing number of minority and women groups by giving them equal position in the workforce.
History of affirmative action dates back to the 1960s. According to Shirley (2003), affirmative action program was first used in 1961 in order to aid people with disabilities. This was signed by President John F. Kennedy’s Executive order number 10925 which sort that Federal agencies take “affirmative action” in the employment of disadvantaged groups especially women so as to end workplace discrimination. Later, President Lyndon Johnson also issued Executive Order 11,246 which demanded that all agencies “shall establish and maintain a positive program of equal employment opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin disability or status.”
According to the Economist (2006), “the gender gap between men and women in the workforce has been improving” currently. This is attributed by an article in the economist to the move to a transformation in the job types offered in the U.S. This has led to an increase in service jobs which are more flexible and thus able to absorb more women. Through affirmative action, the number of minority groups has increased over the recent years and this has impacted positively to the workforce.
The future for affirmative action remains bleak as it is seen to be controversial by the political class. This may be worsened further by the change in the composition of the Supreme courts. The survival of the government affirmative action programs therefore remains a critical issue and is likely to be looked into in years to come.In conclusion, affirmative action did not only benefit the minorities then, but has continued to be of great significance today. Smith (2007) observed that as a result of affirmative action, women and other minority groups are elected to different levels of public office today. It has promoted ethnic diversity in the workplace which would otherwise not have existed and has also addressed the most serious social problems common in the U.S for example discrimination against the disadvantaged on grounds of race.
Affirmative Action Agency, (1990). Taking steps: Employers’ in Affirmative Action, AGPs, Canberra.
Shirley J, (Ed). (2003). History of Affirmative action. New York, NY: South Carolina University Press.
Thaddeus Smith, (2007). Unfairness in the workplace and Universities. Action Research Paper, 1, 1-3.
The Economist, (2006). A guide to Womenomics. Retrieved November 11, 2011 from http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story.