The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Affirmative Action


Affirmative Action is a set of words with positive meaning for some and utter scorn for others.  As is commonly the case, the words reach well back into US History and represent a set of guidelines to help alleviate years upon years of past discrimination in employment and education. From the early stages of "forced immigration" (AKA Western Hemisphere slavery)  through centuries of human bondage, and the benefit of unpaid labor, through Civil Rights Legislation of the mid 1960s, a nation with Affirmative Action should have been anticipated as catalyst for deep social divides.  We should have anticipated the need to tweak and adjust Affirmative Action as time passed.  Is there a continuing need for Affirmative Action?  Well, let's take a look from a few perspectives.

Before we begin, allow me to state that I have written affirmative action plans, and I have taught diversity workshops.  Anyone who has written an affirmative action plan has probably interacted in some way with federal compliance specialist (Auditors) who monitor compliance with federal law as directed by such plans.   An interaction that is never a good interaction and if during an on-site compliance audit the interaction is often less than a desirable place to fulfill a day's work.

A definition of Affirmative Action:

Genesis in Civil Rights Legislation

    EEOC Title VII Part 1607 
    Regulations Linked
Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin"[1] into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group "in areas of employment, education, and business",[2] usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination. 
af·firm·a·tive ac·tion

An action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, esp. in relation to employment or education;

          (Concise Encyclopedia)
affirmative action

In the U.S., the effort to improve the employment and educational opportunities of women and members of minority groups through preferential treatment in job hiring, college admissions, the awarding of government contracts, and the allocation of other social benefits. First undertaken at the federal level following passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action was designed to counteract the lingering effects of generations of past discrimination. The main criteria for inclusion in affirmative action programs are race, sex, ethnic origin, religion, disability, and age. 

Now, for a question after a preface. I doubt many will argue the past need for the Untied States to legislate in the realm of Civil Rights.  While in the nation's South (including Virginia,West Virginia, Arizona) some people relished in the security of Jim Crow Laws. Laws that were so oppressive, courageous elected officials in Washington DC recognized the need for intervention for a more fair and racially equitable society.  While, the South may have been the the bastion and core of the nation's bigotry, racism and oppression against black people, bias existed where ever people of different colors and cultures lived,  sought education, worked and socialized. It is  impossible to argue the United States in the 1960s and 1970s was factually a far different nation than it was in the 1950s and beyond.

Education systems and the workplace were prime areas of equal opportunity legislation. Both areas represented environments where people met and interacted on a daily basis. Environments critical for sustaining and improving  life as we know it (Jobs and education). Now the reality, all people have some from of bias; many people practice discrimination based on those biases.   When a person has the wherewithal (power and opportunity) to practice discrimination the 'victim group (those who are candidate for bias) suffers. It is a simple and irrefutable fact of life. People discriminate. If we lived for hundreds of years with whites working across the nation and the majority of blacks relegated to the South and once out of the South to menial jobs (If jobs at all), is it not rational to think that there would be a need to work to leveling the work environment to include people who are not first to be considered for hire. Why, not first? Many people strive for and want to interact only with the familiar. That with which they are comfortable. That of their likeness.  If for no other reason a person with hiring authority could conceivably avoid interjecting a dynamic into their workgroup that would be new and require signification acclimation via exciting employees.  All said, there are reason for avoiding adding a racial dynamic if one did not exist (for the weak and over cautious manager or management team). Even, with the effort of 'neutral' or positive constructs for hiring bias, the rationale still leads to less hires for the minority. Let there be no doubt women have suffered under the same workplace bias and discrimination many many years. Thus, the discrimination in pay practices which are also targets of Affirmative Actions guidelines and audits.

In fairness, we must point-out there were millions had no direct impact on the nation's bias, racism and intolerance. Of course, millions were taught those psycho/social shortcomings  via family, friends and school environments. Racism, bigotry, and intolerance are not passed through one's DNA.  On the other hand, millions never acquired the psycho/social mutations.  Regardless of upbringing (biased or not biased upbringing), people must understand the angst associated with knowing some may be given (preferential) opportunity based on past wrongs (life) in the United States. If a reader denies understanding that dynamic they should stop reading at this point. The word preferential was used parenthetically in association with one of the definitions above.  I take great exception to the word as used based on my knowledge of whom the federal government enforces EEO Laws. The essence of the law is as such, (Parahparased "...if a government contractor has departmental employee census that shows an under-representation of a particular affected class (minority, women), based on metropolitan data and availability of minority or women with requisite skills in the metro area, give an opportunity to the minority or woman, if other factors are equal".  

Two additional critical factors. The focus is on working to bring the department census to the level of availability data of the review group (minority, women) and no more.  The most critical factor. I have been told by auditor specialist from the OFCCP that my data appeared as if I had developed a quota  I was told that I could be found in violation of the law for establishing a quota not careful. Thus, Right-Wing 'bull' about quotas is nothing more than the very bull they regularly speak.

At this point we have two converging dynamics One dynamic: existential discrimination in the workplace and segregation in schools.  The other: the simple fact that all people must accept Civil Rights induced need for equity in hiring, promotion and job assignment, and the prospect of a balanced quality education.  Why should one segment of the population have legal right over others in the nation, or why should majority segment have different opportunity for quality in life?  The logical answer for the balanced mind is, well all should be equal under the AMENDED Constitution and federal law. 

At this point it is critical to seek agreement.  Should people have equal opportunity to work in America? Should women have opportunity to vote in American? An old set of considerations,  but unfortunately a part of US History. Despite the uproar over the legislation and forced busing, if you can lay the latter aside, is it not within the purview of Americana to feel that children should have opportunity for quality education regardless of race, culture of national origin? A set of questions that should actually be rhetorical questions.  Anyone who answers 'no', would have to consider themselves American Taliban and are  living in a "bubble of life" of times past when racial, ethnic, over oppression was the norm for some, hidden reality for others and unshackle-able life for millions. Let's face it,  we do not have Taliban in the nation nor do we have doctrine akin to Sharia Law.  Yet, we apparently have people in the nation who do not care to support equal opportunity in education and the workplace.

Why use the words "equal opportunity" when, I (as a White male) might be discriminated against because of Civil Rights Laws and details of the Title VII Equal Employment Opportunity Register which includes Affirmative Action? A hypothetical of course!    

Good question.

Let's look at the areas in companies where Affirmative Action legislation applies. First, allow me to state that Affirmative Action in the workplace is a guideline for companies that either have federal contracts or a sub-contractor of a business that has federal contracts. And, those companies ONLY!   Companies without said contractual relationship can voluntarily develop and manage their workforce with consideration of the guidelines (the Plan). Another critical consideration, the guidelines relate to job categories and job groupings within the company.

EEO Job Categories
1. Officials and managers
2. Professionals
3. Technicians
4. Sales
5. Office and clerical
6. Craft Workers (skilled)
7. Operatives (semiskilled)
8. Laborers (unskilled)
9. Service workers

Job categories are really the structural essence of AAP definitions above. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-EEOC (legislative) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs OFCCP (enforcement) are charged with enforcing fairness in hiring, promotions, transfers for government contractors and separation (termination, layoff of resignation) from government contractors.  I will not burden you nor bore you with fine detail of how the agencies accomplish compliance.  It is, however, critical to illustrate a few points about the effectiveness of Affirmative Action.  For sake of ease in locating data, I am going to focus on the highest levels in the Fortune 500 Corporations: the CEO.  The data are readily available and these are the largest revenue earners in the United States. These are the "BIGGEES". It is virtually impossible that many of the Fortune 500 do not have some operation that supplies products or service to the federal government; although I am certain there are some. 

One would think with the widespread prospect of customers across the nation and world markets, more attention would be paid to fairness in hiring and upward mobility.  Especially via the top revenue producers in the United States. 

What does the data tell us. 


There are four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 0.8 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. American Express and Merck & Co. are Nos. 14 and 16, respectively, in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity.
  • Kenneth Chenault, American Express
  • Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co.
  • Ursula Burns, Xerox
  • Clarence Otis, Darden
Source: Fortune
There are nine Asian CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 1.8 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. MasterCard is No. 15 in the DiversityInc Top 50.
  • Ajay Banga, MasterCard
  • Sanjay K. Jha, Motorola
  • Andrea Jung, Avon
  • Surya N. Mohapatra, Quest Diagnostics
  • Kevin M. Murai, Synnex
  • Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo
  • Vikram S. Pandit, Citigroup
  • Laura J. Sen, BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Ravi Saligram, OfficeMax
Source: Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP)
There are six Latino CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 1.2 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. 
  • Antonio Perez, Eastman Kodak Co.
  • George Paz, Express Scripts
  • Paul Raines, GameStop
  • Enrique Salem, Symantec
  • Josue Robles, United Services Automobile Association (USAA)
  • Cristóbal I. Conde, SunGard
Source: HACR
There are 18 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 3.6 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs; Kraft and WellPoint are DiversityInc Top 50 companies (Nos. 7 and 34, respectively).
  • Angela F. Braly, WellPoint
  • Heather Bresch, Mylan (Effective Jan. 1, 2012)
  • Ursula M. Burns, Xerox
  • Lynn L. Elsenhans, Sunoco
  • Andrea Jung, Avon
  • Ellen J. Kullman, DuPont
  • Gracia C. Martore, Gannett
  • Carol M. Meyrowitz, TJX
  • Denise M. Morrison, Campbell Soup
  • Beth Mooney, KeyCorp
  • Deanna M. Mulligan, Guardian
  • Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo
  • Debra L. Reed, Sempra Energy
  • Virginia M. Rometty, IBM (Effective Jan. 1, 2012)
  • Irene B. Rosenfeld, Kraft
  • Laura J. Sen, BJ's Wholesale Club
  • Meg Whitney, HP
  • Patricia A. Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland
Source: Fortune

The most basic of comparison to actual 2011 Census Data looks like this:

Black persons, percent, 2011        13.1% 
The Black CEO male and female 4  at   .08% of all Fortune 500 CEOs

Whether we have any appreciation for federal efforts to level the playing field in employment and education in a world of unabashed bias, discrimination and racism, or whether we have on scorn for such efforts, facts indicate a need to retain the guidelines.  After 50 years of Affirmative Action enforcement, we still have the experience depicted via the Fortune 500 CEOs.    The guidelines have led to increased hiring of minorities and women, but we have not reached a point where such laws have cracked the "glass ceiling" of Americans predominance in white CEOs.   

I have spared detail discussion of the intricacies of AAP, but know that it takes progress at lower levels in the organization from breaking the glass-ceiling to the top. If people at the "TOP" are not in-tuned to doing-the-right-thing' with fair and equable hiring and education (and compensation) the nation will continue see data as depicted above.  Women will continue to be paid less than men. Poverty among minorities based on unequal hiring and education practices will not only flourish, it will increase. Increased poverty is a danger to any industrialized nation.  

Does the nation need Affirmative action? Obviously you have gleaned by bias for such federal legislation.  You have to only accomplish a Google search (Images) of segregation battles in the US South in the 50s and 60s to see how state government obstructed dismantling institutional racism manifest in segregation.   If you are thinking Pardu lives in an old world, we would never allow for such these days, suggest you are dangerously naive.  If you are "informationally well-fed" via credible national news media (not Fox News), you see conservative regressivism and revisionism on a daily basis.  The Supreme Court will soon rule on an Affirmative Action in education cases. 

The Court is rumored to have a willingness to hear a case that involves the 1965 Voting Rights Act!  

American society has been permanently tarnished by past Republican administration   From Ronald Reagan forward, the nation has been torn-apart and divided via strategies akin to the often deployed GOP Southern Strategy. It has become OK to feel discriminatory. It has become OK to perform the most vile of racist attacks on the nation's president.  Should I remind of people who forced our president to "show his papers"?  I am certain you remember past history that included forced " showing one's papers"?  You have to only go back to 1936 through 1945.

If asked if I feel we need to continue with programs such as Affirmative Action, the answer is an unequivocal "yes". Yes, until data show clear evidence that institutionalized and cronyism-discrimination has been eroded from the workplace and in education.  I intentionally avoided use of the word "eliminated" regarding discrimination as it will be  eliminated only after the racial and ethnic demographics of the nation equalize to a point of white America comprising far less they 76% of the population.

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