FEMINISM/POLITICS - Is affirmative action a good thing?
But first, lets stop and ask what is affirmative action?
Affirmative action is about taking sex, race and ethnicity into account when giving people jobs. So for women in politics, affirmative action is hiring/electing more women for high and low ranking positions, so that the sex distribution is eventually roughly 50/50.
The point of affirmative action is to address social disadvantages so that equality is endorsed in the hopes that eventually people hire equal or proportional numbers of staff from different backgrounds.
But is affirmative action a good thing?
Lets say for example I have a job available for an assistant manager. I want someone with experience and don't want to promote someone within the company because none of them have the relevant skills/experience.
I narrow down the resumes to 4 candidates, one Caucasian female, one Caucasian male, one ethnic minority female and one ethnic minority male. They're all roughly the same so I have decide whom to hire which one is best suited for the company. Depending on the current ethnic/sex makeup of the company I could pick any which one of them. In theory if we have a shortage of white males (fat chance that will ever happen) I should hire him. Depending on the company however it is possible.
Typically the ethnic minority female should be the one hired, but if the company already has plenty of ethnic minority females maybe the Caucasian female or the ethnic minority male would be a better choice. Its all about balance and can sometimes be a difficult challenge.
If all else fails, stick their names in a hat and pick one randomly.
So affirmative action is usually good for women and minorities.
But what about the company? Does the company somehow benefit?
According to a new report from the Fawcett Society in the UK, yes they do.
Companies who hire equal numbers of women develop higher productivity, more profits and are more resistant to corruption and bankruptcy during times of recession. The report also discusses how women in the UK are currently dealing with the American recession and gives several possible solutions for addressing the inequality of women's pay and the lack of affirmative action in the UK.
One of the ideas is to fill government imposed quotas, similar to what Norway has done and has achieved remarkable success with.
In Norway, women's representation in boardrooms has soared from 6% to 44% since they first introduced quotas. The rule in Norway states that either gender may not exceed 60% of the workforce in public owned companies (ie. government buildings, utilities, etc). By enforcing this in public companies women get more experience, better resumes and this follows over into privately owned companies as those women take new positions later in life.
As a result of the changes Norway has seen a blossoming of its productivity in the workforce, with men and women realizing that if they want that promotion they're not just competing with the other men or the other women, but all the people... so if they really want that promotion they need to work harder.
The report's five point plan includes:
1. Promote women’s rights and stamp out discrimination.
2. Deliver a bold package to end pay discrimination.
3. Promote flexible working as a solution to the recession.
4. Fast-track women into decision making positions using quotas.
5. Ensure women’s skills are harnessed through education.
The real trick, for most industries, is that affirmative action is largely optional. Some industries just plain have a shortage of women who have studied that particular field (ie. engineering or physics).
But that could be addressed through university quotas, allowing in more female applicants wanting to study physics, engineering, etc.
OR, depending on the field of study, it could be addressed by getting rid of class size caps, allowing more of both women and men into the program.
The point I am making is that affirmative action can be used smartly, and actually benefits companies in terms of productivity/profits.
Women during Recessions
Jobs for Girls and Women
The Truth about Women's Work
Are High Heels a Detriment or a Benefit?
Male Hysteria at Work