Academic journal article Journal of Employment Counseling

Is Affirmative Action Still Necessary?

Academic journal article Journal of Employment Counseling

Is Affirmative Action Still Necessary?

Article excerpt

The influences of socio-race, racial identity development, gender, educational level, and age on promotion and compensation decisions by midlevel supervisors in industry were examined in this analogue study of 74 midlevel business and industry supervisors. The participants varied in socio-racial classifications, gender, educational levels, and age. Results of this study indicated statistically significant differences in promotion rates of female analogue employees, rates of promotion between White male and Black male supervisors, and the rate of promotion when comparing older versus younger supervisors.


In a world where the majority of employers and supervisors are striving to be politically correct, do we still need affirmative action? Or are business and industry supervisors independently capable of making culturally competent and appropriate decisions for women and ethnic minorities in today's workplace without the requirements of affirmative action? How confident are they that other factors such as race, age, and gender, aside from actual performance, have not influenced their evaluations? Does diversity training of supervisors help standards or does it perpetuate superficial tolerance among people in the workplace?

In the current atmosphere of intense business competition, including corporate takeovers, mergers, bankruptcies, and downsizing, most business leaders note the increasing importance of effective management leadership and resultant employee productivity. Profit and loss ratios often depend on the quality of decisions made regarding the placement, use, and treatment of personnel. Ineffective or inappropriate personnel decisions have been shown to lead to lower levels of employee confidence, job satisfaction, and institutional loyalty (Bernstein, 2001; Soni, 2000). Such symptoms are increasingly paired with the decrease in rates of employee productivity and company profitability (Soni, 2000). These outcomes can contribute to a poor competitive stance for a business and increased vulnerability, especially in a climate of global competition. However, questions persist regarding the issue of poor supervisory decision making within business and industry (Tackey, 2001).

This investigation focused on one primary research question: Do the factors of socio-race, racial identity development status, gender, educational level, and age have an influence on the promotion and compensation decisions of industry supervisors? (Because empirical evidence reveals no biological distinctions among racial groups, making race a construction devised by society, the term socio-race is used to describe individuals with varying skin tones.) The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of culturally embedded stereotypes in the supervisory evaluation process of women and minorities, assuming that these evaluations have an impact on promotion and compensation.


Investigations by researchers in the use of performance evaluation and assessment instrumentation have suggested that unconscious social conditioning may be a fundamental aspect of the decision-making issues (Stallworth, McPherson, & Rute, 2001). Specifically, these investigators suggest that socially conditioned stereotypes regarding women and ethnic minorities are still growing and constantly being perpetuated by the media and criminal justice systems (Stallworth et al., 2001). Furthermore, they maintain that these assumption-laden perceptions, or inherent prejudices, extend from the larger society into the business workplace in the form of institutional racism. These embedded and seemingly unconscious elements of racism and/or discrimination can influence decision making in ways that corrupt and/or negate the value of objective, measurable performance criteria such as completion of assigned tasks or meeting specific standards.

In studies examining the effects of embedded cultural stereotypes in the supervisory evaluation process of women and ethnic minorities, Tackey (2001) and Helms and Piper (1994) concluded that biased and nonsupported perceptions of workers' attributes affected the evaluation process. …

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