Women and Gender Bias

The purpose of the present paper is to discuss the implications of gender bias and the consequences of Affirmative Action. To be more specific, we will describe the effects which Affirmative action has on women and the principles for moving towards the equality of men.

Right from the beginning we could ask ourselves, taking into consideration the implications of Affirmative Action, the main principle under analysis, whether there is a clear understanding of it, as far as the roles and goals of women are concerned. Trying to answer this question will represent an important part of the paper.

Next, the Affirmative Action programs will be taken into consideration- with both their strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons. The third part of the paper will deal with the "loop holes" which exist in the system. The fourth part will be an attempt to understand whether seniority is an issue concerning a role in Affirmative Action.

Addressing these key questions may help us in our daily routine as administrators and potential administrators in the public and the private sector. Affirmative Action programs throughout the United States have long been a controversial issue particularly concerning employment practices and university student and, or staff recruitment. Public agencies all possess some type of Affirmative Action program. To understand the role of affirmative actions programs, the definition of what Affirmative Action is and why its inception was first developed, should be determined.

If we are to discuss Affirmative action and its implications, one must understand that there is some kind of discrimination involved. In this particular case we are dealing with sexual discrimination in the U.S.A., the consequences of which are obvious in the division of the labor market. The phrase "Affirmative Action" was used in a racial discrimination context, issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

The order indicated that federal contractors should take affirmative action to ensure job applicants and employees are treated without regard to their gender. Any person could define this statement to imply equal access and nothing more. Subsequently, Affirmative Action refers to various efforts to deliberately take sex into account to remedy past and current effects of discrimination. Its primary goal is to ensure that women are widely represented in all occupations and at all organizational levels.

When trying to explain the birth and development of Affirmative Action, the National Organization for Women states that it must be viewed in the broader context of defending the rights of other categories which have had their share of injustice in this regard, namely the African-Americans.

According to Sykes, "affirmative action is a set of public policies and initiatives designed to eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin." Therefore the analysis of the concept ought to be placed in a further broader context of human rights and the fight against discrimination based on any type of criteria.

Wishing to understand the development of the facts which led to such a measure as the Affirmative Action. We might start with the Thirteenth Amendment which was brought to the American constitution in order to make slavery illegal. Then the Fourteenth Amendment was issued with the purpose of guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

The Fifteenth Amendment is meant to regulate the access to the voting process and forbids that people be discriminated based on their race. An important development in the defense of the rights of African-Americans occurs during the year of 1866 when the Civil Rights Act provides black citizens with "the same right to make and enforce contracts.. As is enjoyed by white citizens." (Sykes)

A further relevant episode is represented by the decision of the Supreme court in the case Plessy vs. Ferguson which referred to a "separate, yet equal doctrine." Taking a good look at the historical data it is safe to say that the doctrine was far from being equal when it came to the manifestation of the civil rights for African-Americans. "Thew decision marked the end of the post Civil War reconstruction era as Jim Crow laws spread across the south." (Sykes)

By 1941 a lot of pressure was being made in order to produce some change. "President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which outlawed segregationist hiring policies by defense-related industries which held federal contracts. Roosevelt's signing of this order was a direct result of efforts by Black trade union leader, a. Philip Randolph." (Sykes)

Harry Truman was another American president concerned with nondiscrimination policies. It is during his presidency that the committee on Government contract compliance adviced the Bureau of employment security to "act positively and affirmatively to implement the policy of non-discrimination." This means that the labor market was still strongly affected by racial prejudice, which created a lot of social tension. We are getting close to the "birth" of affirmative action. In 1954 a decision of the Supreme Court- Brown vs. Board of Education- overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson. "

The actual phrase "affirmative action" was first used in President John F. Kennedy's 1961 Executive Order 10925 which requires federal contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." The same language was later used in Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Executive Order 11246." (Sykes). Nevertheless, it was not until 1967 that president Johnson expanded the executive order in a specific manner which would direct the requirements of the affirmative action towards the befits for women.

Other events considered important in this regard by the National Organization for Women include "protection laws passed to make discrimination illegal were the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title II and VII of which forbid racial discrimination in "public accommodations" and race and sex discrimination in employment, respectively; and the1965 Voting Rights Act adopted after Congress found "that racial discrimination in voting was an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of the country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution." "

One of the most important controversies which were born based on the affirmative action principles is something called "reverse discrimination and unwarranted preferences." It is safe to say that this aspect represents the major attack point of those who are against affirmative action, claiming that it supports preferential treatment of categories which were mistreated before (women for example).

In order to avoid further complications, the existing laws stipulate that those who are likely to benefit from affirmative action must also prove that they have the necessary professional qualifications as well as the needed education. In this manner the above accusation is easier to be faced or avoided.

There are however people who believe that affirmative action is nothing more than reverse discrimination. Affirmative action is concerned with providing equal opportunities for all the people and it was born in a social and political context in which large categories were actually discriminated. A social system based on equal opportunities implies a selection and hiring system which treats people equally and with respect and in which merits are the most important criteria.

According to Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy, affirmative action means "positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded." Some voices state that this is likely to give birth to reverse discrimination because it encourages the development of opportunities for the mentioned above categories only.

An example brought as a supportive argument fro the discussion refers to a situation in which let us say a white male with superior education and high incomes is denied an opportunity in favor of a black male with superior studies and low incomes. Some see in this a principles of affirmative action and a means through which society tries to help those who are less fortunate.

Others on the other hand claim that this is reverse discrimination and that race should not be taken into consideration at all in the recruitment processes. In an ideal society this might be true. Taking a look at the real society however, one can not fail to notice that the categories with lower incomes and more difficulties generally speaking are the black citizens. As much as we would like to state that all citizens benefit from perfect equality and have access to the exact same rights, the social data makes us understand that there still is a strong connection between race and status.

Some argue that there is no reason for which categories such as women or African-Americans are to be favored in the recruitment processes. In other words, these categories are perfectly capable of reaching their professional goals on their own and giving them extra support through affirmative action is nothing but reversed discrimination for all the other people. Yet we should return to the considerations in the paragraph above and make some logical considerations.

If a person is born in a family with low or…