The history of affirmative action dates back to the 1960s. This was a period in which the Civil Rights Movement openly protested against oppression, discrimination, segregation and white men dominance in workplaces, governance and policy formulation. It is historically evident that the job market had been dominated by white men and there was little or no room for other minority groups, women and people of color, regardless of their professional qualifications. Affirmative action came as a move by government, courts and independent organizations to create equal job and workplace opportunities for African Americans, women and other minority groups.
Affirmative action was triggered by the passage of the Civil Rights act in 1964. Title VII of the act explicitly outlawed employment discrimination in workplaces (Solomon, 1995). The act was backed by President’s Johnsons executive order 11246, which served as the root of affirmative action in the workplace (Solomon, 1995). The order required all companies under government contracts to merge white-men dominated job positions to create equal opportunities for all, especially African Americans, white women and people of color.
Over the years, it has emerged that affirmative action has not fully achieved its intended purpose despite its significant reduction of workplace discrimination. This underachievement may be attributed to the fact that most organizations openly differ on the purpose of the policy. Some view it as a move aimed at giving preferential treatment to prejudiced groups through the use of quotas. Others are of the opinion that affirmative action is a mechanism geared towards promotion of equal rights and opportunities in the workplace (Taylor, 1991, p.91, 92). Therefore it is clear that there is uncertainty as to what affirmative action should be.
Since the creation of affirmative action policies in workplaces, the labor market has changed significantly. Evidently, the policy has opened the workplace doors to minorities and women. The number of Hispanics and African American executives occupying executive positions within Fortune 1,000 companies increased by 200% between 1979 and 1989 (Thomas & Wetlaufe, 1997). Regardless of these significant changes, workplace discrimination still exists today. According to Harrison et al. (2006), proponents of affirmative action believe that this is a profound reason to continue embracing the policy to counter the vice (as cited by Kravitz, 2008).
Today, Human resource managers and top governing authorities believe that affirmative action aids in creation and management of workforce diversity which is, in turn, pivotal to the efficiency of any organization. Through incorporation of diverse races in the workplace, organizations are bound to benefit from a broad client base as a result of the influence its employees have on their respective races. A report compiled by the Glass Ceiling Commission contained a car dealership that hired bilingual employees in Miami. The employees influenced a large Hispanic clientele and within six years, the dealership’s sales increased by 400% and their Hispanic clientele increased by 50% (Tomasson, Crosby & Herzberger, 2001).
Research on workplace diversity conclusively proves that a diverse workforce is directly proportional to efficiency and output maximization. Diversity also encourages talent exploitation as opposed to reliance on skill only. This translates to increased productivity and maximization of profit margins in organizations. In essence, affirmative action is a favorable economic and labor policy. In this light, it would be inappropriate for organizations to oppose affirmative action and risk reverting to mediocre employment discrimination.
Kravitz, D, A. (2008). The Diversity–Validity Dilemma: Beyond Selection—the Role of Affirmative Action. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 61, 173-193.
Solomon, C, M. (1995). Affirmative action: What you need to know. (Cover story). Personnel Journal, 74, 56-66. Retrieved on 13th October 2011 from <http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/detail?sid=31ec0046-9ec4-43da-aff0-f7fe6b80359a%40sessionmgr14&vid=1&hid=3&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=f5h&AN=9508174153>
Taylor, B, R. (1991). Affirmative action at work: law, politics, and ethics
Pitt series in policy and institutional studies
Pitt Poetry. Pennsylvania, PA: University of Pittsburgh Pre.
Thomas, D, A, & Wetlaufe, S. (1997). A Question of Color: A Debate on Race in the U.S. Workplace. Harvard Business Review, 75.Retrieved on 13th October 2011 from <https://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/detail?vid=8&hid=115&sid=e27a93cd-8eb6-4e7f-a750-e7afd9a0acb0%40sessionmgr114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=bth&AN=9709112723>
Tomasson, R, F, Crosby, F, J & Herzberger, S, D. ( 2001). Affirmative action: the pros and cons of policy and practice. Asian Voices. The American University Press public policy series. Maryland, MA: Rowman and Littlefield.