There has been a wave of affirmative action policies that have swept over the country in the recent years. Affirmative action involves fighting for the representation of the women and minorities in the workplaces. It started in the 1960’s with the implementation of the Civil Rights Act implemented in the 1960’s. It states that no one should be discriminated against on the basis of colour, race, ethnicity, gender and religion. The movement started in the 1960’s to address racism in the market place. Later, women also spoke up against being employed in low-paying, subordinate positions while the men were being employed in managerial and supervisor positions.
After the September 11, terrorist attacks, affirmative action for Muslims picked up. Companies allowed the Muslims religious freedoms. They could practice their religion which involves certain dressing and getting time to pray five times a day (Ball & Haque, 2003) There had been tension in the industry concerning the employment of Muslims. People had to be educated on the difference between radical fundamentalists and people who simply practiced Islam. Companies started instituting diversity committees to oversee the cultural diversity of the company. Managers started having policies to ensure they recruited from minorities and the female population.
The veterans who had been disabled while in active duty also sought to be recognised by the government. There were policies put in place to ensure that a certain percentage of government contracts were with small business owned by these disabled veterans. The question though is it fair for the government to award contracts on a sole source basis to qualified small businesses owned by disabled veterans? There has been a steady increase in the army’s
SDVOSB program goals. In 2005, the army had awarded these business contracts that were worth $516.02M. By the year 2010, the contract value had increased to a substantial $2,895. 12M.
There have been arguments for affirmative action throughout the years. The minorities and females need role models they can relate. If they see other women and minorities making it in the corporate world they will be highly encouraged to work hard and make it in life. However this argument is shallow since an individual can have role models from all walks of life. There are many people who are not Indians but they have been highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. There is no need to have a role model who is inferior to others in his field in terms of skills and qualifications.
There have been arguments that affirmative action has been taken a little too far. It has come to the level where it is actually discriminative and preferential. Affirmative action has encouraged mediocrity and incompetence (Gilbert, Stead & Ivancevich, 1999). In several organisations with quotas or goals of employing a certain percentage of women and minorities, lower performance standards have been applied. It causes the company to end up employing people who are under qualified yet there are white males who qualify for the position. The discrimination against hiring the White Males has caused a situation in the labour market where the White Males are missing out on opportunities.
On the argument of addressing past wrongs, two wrongs do not make a right. The innocent White Males are paying for wrongs that they did not commit. It may be said that though
the White males are innocent, they have greatly gained from the social injustice in the past. Pursuing this line of thought however shows that the focus of affirmative action is wrong. It has become a means to an end. It is a tool for the society to feel less guilty of the past. The repercussions however is that the minority is not recognised for who he is and the qualifications he possesses, he is simply a means to an end.
Researchers carried out a study conducted on the affirmative action policies in three law enforcement offices in the Tempe, Phoenix and Mesa areas. It was noted that external pressure in the form of financial incentives such as federal grants, court orders and lawsuits were what mainly influenced the institutions to strive to meet their affirmative action goals. It was simply a compliance issue and a means to get more money (Allen, 2003). The issue of concern was therefore the reception the minorities and women would receive when they joined the departments. The White males were the ones who exhibited the highest levels of resistance against affirmative action policies. They felt they would be easily overlooked when it came to the time of promotions and other rewards.
The second argument in support of affirmative action is the compensation angle. In time, people from ethnic or racial groups that had suffered during the history of the nation started demanding for certain treatments to address these historical wrongs. It is hard to compensate these groups of people unless it is compensation to a specific group of people. The Germans were levied high financial penalties to compensate the survivors of the Nazi concentration
camps. This case is specific. It is hard to compensate the Blacks because they endured state but also private incidences of racism in different measures. Secondly financial compensation is better than awarding a minority a high position he is not qualified to do. The compensation argument has been highlighted in the case of disabled veterans. They fought the wars for the protection of their country. They have become disabled and are therefore limited in supporting themselves and their families economically. The government has therefore stepped in to award them contracts to assist them take care of themselves financially.
There has also been the focus on diversity management. America has become a country that has different cultures and there has been the need of multiculturalism in the workplace. It is important to practice cultural and religious tolerance. This is a great concept as it equips people to cope and appreciate people from all walks of life. However, it rarely matters that the surgeons in the hospitals are Hispanics, Blacks or Whites. The main concern for every patient is usually, is the surgeon qualified to operate on me? Cultural diversity should not just be for social means but people employed based on their expertise and qualifications.
Affirmative action policies are prone to abuse and fraud. The government has had to set standards on what exactly it means to be qualified when it comes to the small businesses owned by the disabled veterans. It has been stated that the veteran must have only one business in the government set-aside program. He should also be working in the business full-time.
In a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office, it was discovered that contracts of over $100 Million worth in sole source bid and set aside programs were awarded fraudulently. The investigating authority recognised the absence of standards when it came to analysing whether the disabled veteran’s small businesses qualified for the government contracts (Miller, 2010)
In conclusion, my opinion is that it is not fair for the government to award contracts on a sole source bid to the disabled veteran soldiers. The government has not set a standard to enable it to know the businesses which are qualified and those that do not. Affirmative action policies have led to situations where the people who are meant to be assisted miss out while others who are not in the picture are the ones who gain. Secondly, it should be on a competitively bid framework. Others should be allowed to compete so that the best qualified business is awarded the contract. Awarding the contract should not be just to accomplish a social need but the business should be qualified and competent.
Where it is on a sole source bid, there has to be justification that that business is peculiar in meeting the government’s needs. The Supreme Court in America states that programs awarded on the basis of affirmative action must be addressing a specific government need. These laws came into being when there were complaints from the public on racial and gender preferences when it came to employment, educating and contracting in the State of Carliforna (Muhl, 1999). Institutions should also avoid the use of quotas or goals in affirmative action as this pressures the company into allowing mediocre contracts to be implemented.
Affirmative action policies should therefore be checked to ensure they do not cause more harm than good.
Allen, R. (2003).. Examining the Implementation of Affirmative Action in Law
Enforcement. Public Personnel, 32(3): 411-417
Carolyn Ball, Akhlaque Haque. Diversity In Religious Practice: Implications of Islamic
Values in the Public Workplace. Public Personnel Management, 32(3): 315- 324
Gilbert, J., Stead, B. & Ivancevich, J. (1999). Diversity Management: A New
Organizational Paradigm. Journal of Business Ethics. 21(1); 61-77.
Miller, J. (2010). VA Sets Rules for Set-Aside Programs. Retrieved from:
Muhl, C. (1999). Affirmative Action Requirements. Monthly Labor Review, 122(1) : 48-40.