Updated: Feb 10
Affirmative action is defined as “a policy in which an individual's color, race, sex, religion or national origin are taken into account to increase opportunities provided to an under-represented part of society” (Investopedia, 2021). A term first coined in the 1960s, the policy was initially advised to be a direct result of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 seeking to eliminate discrimination, however was turned on its axis to dismiss the capabilities of disadvantaged populations as mercy hires in the corporate workforce.
No matter the location on this (somewhat) green Earth, we have faced some form of affirmative action. There are several issues with affirmative action and its lasting effects on the current workforce. The first issue would be affirmative action limiting the number of disadvantaged employees working within an industry or for a company. The idea that there only needs to be a certain number of disadvantaged employees to keep the affirmative action policy up to date brings to question the intentions of the company and its goals on diversity and inclusion.
The need to meet this quota also provides room for error as employers may only hire a person due to them fitting the quota, rather than based on their merit within the industry. Thus, is the focus to hire the right quota or create a company culture that aligns with the brand and customer?
Another issue with this outdated policy would be the possible misrepresentation of applicants to a job posting as many would believe they need to fit into another race to better their chances of being hired or even getting an interview. Some employers may also use the information collected as part of affirmative action as a way to discriminate against the applicant in all regards to the “individual's color, race, sex, religion or national origin” and even those with disabilities.
Lastly, affirmative action raises an environment for possible violence for those who feel others benefit from the policy. Some may feel the person hired due to their color, race, sex, religion, or national origin to appease the policy took the position or slot from another more deserving applicant. Ideals and assumptions such as these followed from the policy lead to negative effects on both applicants and the company culture as a whole. There is a strong need for the Human Resource department, employee, and executive teams to stand together to make better decisions for the company culture.
One of our capabilities at FIG is to turn diversity initiatives into growth opportunities; we help businesses develop diversity centered growth strategies that align your company values as well as with your customers'.