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Main Dictionary A

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action means a policy directed to enhance workplace or educational access for unequally represented population categories. In fact, these projects are usually put into practice by corporations and authorities with respect to multiple factors, including race, religious views, sex, or ethnic background.

Affirmative action takes a direct aim at demographics with relatively low professional positions in the decision-making process. The policy is considered a response against discrimination of certain groups.

Operating principle

As stated above, affirmative action is known as a policy conducted by governmental authorities that is elaborated for underrepresented categories in order to provide access to educational, working and state facilities. Notably, the options include a school enrollment, professional posts, and service admission, for instance, accommodation or funding. So, the target of affirmative action is quite simple: establishing equal relations between social groups. 

Historical note

Initially, the policy of affirmative action was introduced in the U.S. in the 1960s. It was elaborated to ensure compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 aimed at eliminating discrimination.

Early realization of the policy focused on overcoming the public segregation of underrepresented communities. Regardless of the legislation that prohibited preconceived techniques, no significant changes in the status quo were made. 

In other words, affirmative actions were primarily intended to particular categories of population, for instance, ethnic groups and other at-risk minorities. Currently, political activities have focused on the inclusivity process within corporations and firms. So that gender diversity is provided for underrepresented groups. In addition, affirmative actions give priority to veterans and people with reduced capabilities. 

Criteria for Affirmative Action

Intention to promote these changes may settle into assistance to expand the opportunities of population categories. The process presupposes grants, educational fellowships, as well as other types of monetary support. All these measures are meant to be the aid for social stratas to acquire access to higher educational attainment.

Employment practices are set in order to introduce various applicants for job offerings. In certain cases, enterprises are able to assume the obligation that they will hire the specified percentage of skilled workforce of different nationalities, genders, or cultures. But failure to comply with these requirements would lead to the absence of government funding, or state contracts’ award. 

Note: a majority of the population confuses the concepts of affirmative action and employment equity. Anyway, there exists a substantial difference between the terms. So, employment equity guarantees that all entities are equal, whereas affirmative action ensures that traditionally underrepresented categories receive new opportunities, which were previously inaccessible.

Pros and cons of the policy

In fact, the policy of affirmative actions has attracted heavy hitting support and, at the same time, intense criticism. Let’s take a closer look at both points of view.

The following advantages are taken into account while considering affirmative action:

  • Compensation for minorities. For centuries, certain genders and races have been literally enslaved and oppressed. So that affirmative action, or positive discrimination allows to receive benefits for the descendants of unequally represented social groups, who fought for their rights.
  • Instrument for acceleration. Workers and students from oppressed groups are most often at a disadvantage while entering university, or in the job application process. Since many come from low-income families and experience gender stereotypes throughout their lives, these individuals possess fewer opportunities. Affirmative action helps balance these differences.
  • Prospects for other spheres. Due to quotas and special conditions, people can be drawn to new areas of life. For instance, men are able to try out as educators and medical staff, while women may be engaged in computer science. Thus, gender stereotypes are being destroyed.

Of course, there is no possibility to implement the policy without drawbacks.

Violent disputes arise from the concept, including:

  • Creation of reverse discrimination. In the case where the advantage is given solely on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, or national origin, and not on professional qualities, the majority will be at a disadvantage, regardless of aspirations and skills.
  • Reduced liability. There are minorities, who can achieve excellent grades on their own. Anyway, by setting low standards for admission and hiring, the level of responsibility is reduced. Hard work, discipline and personal achievements should be rewarded equally, not just for those who belong to a particular social group.
  • Undervaluation of unequally represented categories. Oppressed groups are forced to work twice as hard to earn genuine respect and recognition. Many will falsely assume that their success is due to affirmative action.

Affirmative Action in real life

Employers can use affirmative action to help individuals, or certain groups, who are at a disadvantage in getting hired, or have special needs. For instance, a university may assume measures to encourage women to study engineering and industrial technology sciences. Or, a large enterprise can establish a special placement program aimed at actively recruiting employees from the minorities.

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