The Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action in the Workplace
According to the Encarta Dictionary, affirmative action (AA) is a policy or program aimed at countering discrimination against minorities and women, especially in employment and education. There are those who feel that AA has exceeded its usefulness, and is no longer required. Opposite that viewpoint, many think that AA has served its purpose well, but there is still a steady need and place for this legislation. In this research paper, I will compare and analyze the perceived pros and cons of AA, as it relates to the workplace.
Some perceived negative aspects of AA are: it leads to reverse discrimination; quality workmanship suffers because managers hire women and minorities, who are ill-equipped to handle the job; and it is condescending to women and minorities to say that AA was required to succeed. First I’ll discuss reverse discrimination.
Reverse discrimination is a “claim brought by majority member who feels adversely affected by the use of an employer’s affirmative action plan” (Bennet et al, 2009, p. 237). “An ironic aspect of a reverse-discrimination claim is that it's often the result of an employer's attempt to honor diversity (Flynn, 2003)”. AA programs look at statistics to show patterns of the past, and companies mistakenly think that by using quotas, they can improve the statistics, and be within an acceptable realm for AA. Properly implemented, in all but the worst circumstances, AA is an excellent tool to alleviate disparities, without the adverse effects of reverse discrimination. “A federal jury in Philadelphia awarded $7 million to two white agents for Federal Drug Enforcement Administration who sued the U.S. Justice Department for the reverse discrimination (Tooher, 2008)”. Unfortunately, this shows that when AA is improperly
Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action 3 enforced, reverse discrimination can be a byproduct. Closely related to this subject, is the idea that qualifications and standards are lowered to fulfill quotas for women and minorities in the workplace.
An argument against AA is that minorities and women are selected for jobs largely based on race, gender and filling quotas, resulting in the best person for the job not being picked, and job results may therefore suffer. Opponents of AA say that job selection should be “based on merit, selecting the best candidate regardless of race and gender (Soni, 1999)”. But what is merit? Is a prestigious degree from an Ivy League school a merit, or is being a woman or minority, and serving as a role model, a merit? Is merit based on workplace objectives? In fact “the achievement of professional and managerial objectives usually involves a complex series of social relationships and dependencies to the extent it is often unreasonable to hold professionals responsible for not meeting objectives (Soni, 1999)”. The very people who say that women and minorities only gain their positions through AA, may very well be the same people who “earned” their coveted positions through workplace politicking or the “old-boys’ network”, which violates the principle of the merit system. It seems that it would be very hard to discredit hiring someone based on the merit system, regardless of gender or ethnicity. As far as being ill-equipped to handle the job, this statement from an article by Christopher M. Leporini, "having a more diverse team leads to greater innovation and creativity as well as opening up the possibilities of different perspectives”, is counter to an AA opponents thinking. AA was not developed to hire less qualified women and minorities, but to give them an equal opportunity in the workforce, and it seems that the diversity that AA brings actually enhances the job environment, and I have seen
Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action 4 no research to counter that claim. Next, do women and minorities feel as if their...