Affirmative action programs have been in existence since the term equal employment opportunity came about. The purpose of such programs is to ensure equal employment practices that are non-discriminatory, and to ensure that organizations do everything possible to ensure equal representation among minority and female candidates within an organization. The manner in which an affirmative action program is structured may influence the public's perception of an organization's effectiveness and culture as well, thus it is vital that top level managers work directly with employees to encourage a program that is fair and well understood.

There are numerous factors which might impact consumer behavior. Awareness of those factors is essential for a business to remain competitive. Affirmative action programs are one aspect of business organization that might impact consumers. Consumers are interested by and large in working with organizations that provide an equal and fair employment environment, where all employees are afforded the opportunity to excel within a corporation.

Affirmative Action Programs at Work

Discrimination in employment or recruitment practices is discouraged for obvious reasons. By and large affirmative action programs seek to remove limitations on career aspirations, expand people's "sense" of what they can achieve and subject all people to the "full range of options to the kind of individualized scrutiny that is appropriate to career decisions and goals" (Stroud, 1999: 3).

Created more than 30 years ago, affirmative actions were created as a means to remedy the "under use of minority and female human resources" in the workplace (Carlton, Donahue, Garcia, Hawkey, Johnson & Watson, 1997). Affirmative action programs are organized in a fashion which requires organizations to adopt active measures to resolve any inequalities that might have arisen in the workplace due to past discrimination or unequal employment opportunities (Carlton, et. al, 1997).

In 1972 the Equal Employment Opportunity Act or EEO was passed, and affirmative action was a tool used to help ensure its implementation (Carlton, et. al, 1997). As a result of measures adopted by companies with regard to affirmative action, change has occurred within many organizations, and more women and minorities are now represented in greater numbers in organizations in all sectors and in all positions (Carlton, et. al, 1997). Women and minorities are also represented in greater percentages in decision making positions and more management positions.

Despite advances however that have been made as a result of affirmative action, there is still evidence to suggest that women and minorities are still under-represented in the highest levels of management (Carlton et. al, 1997). In addition women in the public sector specifically generally make less than male counterparts in equal positions, suggesting the need for further advances with regard to affirmative action programs.

There have also been numerous claims in recent years that affirmative action results in 'reverse' discrimination, meaning that it prevents non-minorities from acquiring key positions and advancing within an organization despite the fact that they may be well qualified to take on a certain role (Carlton, et. al, 1997).

In fact the issue of affirmative action is often considered a highly controversial one. There are those within the field that consider affirmative action programs a means of establishing quotas within an organization and preventing qualified non-minorities from…