In this situation, when a man and a woman would apply for the same position, preference would be given to the woman – to avoid ‘discrimination’. This practice came to be called affirmative action. However, much to the consternation of policy makers, affirmative action ended up causing even more discrimination, of a different sort as it was in reverse, because, ironically, the woman would be selected not based on her merit or her accomplishments but rather her gender.
By definition, affirmative action is “a policy designed to redress past discrimination against women and minority groups through measures to improve their economic and educational opportunities” (WordNet, n.d.). It is, says Martindale (2010) ‘the practice of giving preference to racial minorities or women in hiring or admissions’, which by definition prefers certain characteristics like gender and color, over other more relevant ones like competence and caliber.
There has been much argument for and against affirmative action. To understand the pros and cons, it is important to look at clearly why affirmative action came into existence. While we see a lot of females and African Americans (along with other minority groups) in various positions in corporate America as well as most of the schools, this was not the case a handful of decades ago. These groups were severely underrepresented and this fact became a cause for much frustration and conflict. Taking into account the wasted talent, policy makers in the 1960s to 1970s (Andre, Velasquez & Mazur) decided that they should set quotas for these groups so employers or hiring managers in companies would be forced to make the decision of hiring from these groups. While this policy was successful in creating more representation of these groups, this created the situation of reverse discrimination.