What is affirmative action?
Affirmative action is a set of policies used by a workplace or institution to improve opportunities for groups of people commonly discriminated against. Factors that lead to discrimination could include:
- Religious beliefs
- LGBQT+ status
- National origin
There are different types of affirmative action. One example is positive discrimination, which is the act of favoring members of a disadvantaged group. This policy can be beneficial because it can help reduce inequality between groups that experience discrimination and those that do not face discrimination. It may also benefit people in specific fields, such as medicine or law, where applicants must obtain a certain amount of work experience. Another example is gender quotas, which restrict employers from discriminating against women and help increase the number of female workers.
What's the difference between affirmative action and diversity?
Affirmative action focuses on giving disadvantaged groups an equal opportunity to succeed. Diversity programs focus on hiring a certain amount of people from diverse backgrounds. For example, a company may employ 50% men and 50% women because it values diversity in its workplace. While this is beneficial for promoting equality, it doesn't facilitate true diversity.
Why do we need affirmative action in the workforce?
Affirmative action is implemented in workplaces because it fixes the unfair treatment of women and minorities. Everyone should have equal opportunities when applying for jobs so they can succeed based on their merit.
Affirmative action in the workforce can help to have better team cohesion in the workplace. If people are all treated equally in the workplace, they will be more likely to respect one another and work together to solve problems.
Nowadays, it is essential to have equal employment opportunities regardless of racial and gender preferences in the hiring and admissions process. Equal access to a job opportunity is taught in the hiring managers affirmative action programs and should follow the equal employment opportunity commission. Companies such as federal contractors can face reverse discrimination by giving a lot of attention to racial quotas. The supreme court is aware that racial minorities can sometimes be unfairly disadvantaged, so they are used to paying a lot of attention to whether companies follow federal affirmative action programs or not.
Affirmative action also leads to more economic growth. When companies hire people based on merit, they will have employees that are the best at their jobs. This leads to better productivity and makes companies more likely to grow and be successful.
Educational institutions such as law school or medical school teach affirmative action programs to avoid preferential treatment such as racial preferences. Teaching affirmative action program at school is very important to encourage civil rights act and denounce past discrimination among minority students, for example.
What does affirmative action look like in a company?
There are multiple policies that companies can implement to promote and encourage hiring women and minorities into the workforce. Each job opening should post it publicly and show that they value diversity by actively recruiting women and minorities for the position.
Companies often do this by using inclusive language such as "we welcome all people of color, all women, etc." One scheme tech companies like Google have implemented is Jobs with Equality which gives more points during their hiring process to applicants who fit under one of those categories. These schemes allow tech companies to hire diverse employees without lowering qualifications for any specific job.
The benefits of affirmative action :
Companies should use affirmative action when hiring employees, so they do not discriminate based on race, gender, etc.. and can employ the most qualified candidate instead of someone given more opportunities because of their background.
Indeed, hiring people of underprivileged backgrounds will allow the company to be more diverse and benefit from this. For example, if a woman or minority is hired, they can provide insight into problems that women or minorities face which white men may not understand. This also promotes cohesion in the workplace because employees will be less likely to discriminate against others who are not like them (i.e. women or minority). This will also allow companies to hire the most qualified person instead of hiring someone less skilled because they are white or male.
In short, affirmative action helps make sure everyone has equal opportunities in society, so no one gets left behind due to unfair treatment by society as a whole.
Affirmative action can be very beneficial for a company because it provides diversity and helps solve problems that people without specific backgrounds would not see.
- Studies show that more women in senior positions have better financial results than those with fewer female employees.
- Firms in India which practice affirmative action for women achieved a 34% higher return on equity than those that do not.
The reality is that merit does not decide who succeeds, and everyone needs an equal chance to contribute back to the community.
How to implement affirmative action in a company ?
- Companies should post all open positions publicly and state that they are looking for people of underprivileged backgrounds.
- The HR team should use inclusive language in the job description, so everyone feels welcome to apply.
- Companies can implement schemes like Jobs with equality which give more points to an applicant who is a minority or woman. This allows companies to hire diverse employees without lowering qualifications for any specific job.
- Companies should actively monitor communication in the workplace for any wrongdoing.
- Companies should have a policy that if they see another employee being discriminated against, they will take disciplinary action against it. This will promote cohesion in the workplace and make sure everyone is on the same level playing field.
What is the goal of affirmative action?
Affirmative action seeks to 'level the playing field' by giving underrepresented groups of people equal opportunity. This, in turn, aims to reduce the inequalities we see in broader society.
By implementing affirmative action policies, an organization is taking direct action to increase its diversity. While affirmative action seeks to provide better opportunities to a broader range of people, there is also a business case for organizations comprising of more representative employee groups.
That's because improved diversity is proven to create a better business performance. Through an extensive range of reports carried out over several years, McKinsey found that companies with more than 30% of women executives were more likely to outperform organizations with lower levels of female executives.
Similarly, increased ethnic diversity increases an organization's likely financial outperformance by as much as 36% compared to organizations with low levels of ethnic diversity. This study was repeated across 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies, indicating the robust nature of the findings.
How does affirmative action work?
Affirmative action works by first identifying the demographics that an organization wants to increase. With this in place, the organization will attract these individuals and provide them with opportunities. These might include:
- Apprenticeships for underrepresented groups
- Hiring from certain universities or colleges to increase uptake of target groups
- Targeting advertising at websites or publications that target demographics might read
- Mentoring programs for employees who meet the demographic profile
- Fast-track programs to accelerate the career of promising employees from underrepresented groups.
How can you evolve affirmative action policies over time?
Affirmative action policies must be in tune with reality and take account of your employee population and the wider population.
Monitoring your employee demographic profile will help you judge which demographic groups do not thrive and need more support. It may be helpful to analyze each group of employees by:
- Career progression
- Enrollment and attendance of training programs.
This data will help you understand how your organization is performing on increasing diversity and how it is performing against inclusion. This is important because affirmative action must address inclusivity to ensure success. Inclusivity affects how underrepresented groups of people feel in an organization and will affect engagement, performance, and turnover.
By building a more vital place for diversity and inclusion in your organization, the position of affirmative action becomes less contentious. Affirmative action is seen as unfavorable by some people – they see it as taking opportunities away from some groups of people and giving that opportunity to others. By focusing on a solid diversity and inclusion strategy, you will help create a more level playing field for all employees to thrive on.
Recommendations to further the cause of affirmative action :
To have a more diverse workplace, companies should :
- Strive for equal representation from those from underprivileged backgrounds.
- Implement a quota system that requires a certain percentage of employees to come from underprivileged backgrounds.
- Actively recruit women and minorities to make them feel welcome and not discriminated against.
- Spread more awareness about this issue to understand why it is essential and how it benefits the community.