Diversity and Affirmative Action in Public Service

By Walter D. Broadnax | Go to book overview

Affirmative Action Produces
Equal Employment Opportunity for All

A program of equal employment opportunity which stops at merely eliminating overt discrimination in the competitive process may touch only superficially on many of the real issues involved in making equal opportunity a practical reality. Opening doors long closed is a necessary first step; making sure that those who were formerly locked out have a real opportunity to compete, not only to enter but also to move upward, is an essential follow-up. Affirmative action is the key to achieving equal employment opportunity for all. And only with equal employment opportunity for all can public jurisdictions conduct their personnel affairs in accordance with merit principles.

We need no longer theorize and speculate on this matter. We now know that equal employment opportunity can be significantly advanced by affirmative action directed against such practices as inadequate publicity about job openings, unrealistic job requirements, invalid selection instruments and procedures, and insufficient opportunity for upward mobility.

Meaningful response is now being made to the problems of those who have not participated in the competition for public employment, or who even now cannot do so successfully because the system may have been designed and operated without taking them into account. The response has taken a variety of approaches, depending on the nature of the problems of the work force and the needs of the employer. Generally, successful equal employment opportunity programs comprise a full range of affirmative actions. These actions are tailored to the problems of those who because of past discriminations are not competing successfully for entry into the system; or who, once on the rolls, are unable to realize their full potential because of gaps in education or skills, also often due to past discrimination. At the same time, the prudent manager makes certain that program activities are realistic in design and objective, so that they meet the needs of management for a work force which represents the best the market can produce in terms of the specific tasks to be performed.

In the past, persons qualified for employment often did not compete simply because they were members of societal groups not in the mainstream reached by the employer's recruiting activities. Recruiting efforts have now been redirected affirmatively to include these groups. Virtually every federal agency which sends recruiters to the campus to seek candidates for entry-level technical and professional jobs now makes special efforts to ensure that recruiting teams regularly visit schools with predominantly minority or female enrollment. This kind of effort has resulted in quickly discernible change in the racial, ethnic, and sex makeup of the work force. Further dividends have been produced as these

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