Pubic Administration & the Effect of Diversity Policy
The evolution of the United States as a multicultural nation has also brought about the evolution of public administration. The influx of new cultures, race, and ethnic diversity has brought about changes in the development of public programs and services. The single driving force influencing public programs and services, with regard to racial and ethnic diversity, is affirmative action. There are no areas of public administration that are not affected by the policy and laws governing affirmative action.
Affirmative action refers to a body of laws and policies focused on diminishing the effects of discrimination. The function of affirmative action policies is to provide a means of equal opportunity for individuals whom have been historically challenged by discrimination. The eligibility of affirmative action benefits is determined by race, ethnicity and gender. As well, affirmative action policies are designed to create employment possibilities and education opportunities for minorities and women. Some employers are required to have an affirmative action plan. However, this is restricted to businesses with more than 15 employees or companies with federal contracts. The companies which meet these criteria are required to write and abide by this plan. In order to be effective, an affirmative action plan must follow specific goals and preferences designed to fulfill the disparities in ethnic, racial, and gender population of an organization. If a plan is not followed by the employer, this could result in loss of government contracts.
However, all areas of the public sector are governed by affirmative action. This means that all agencies and bureaus must follow the guidelines for affirmative action. For public administrators this means that they will at some point have to create affirmative action plans or implement them within their hiring practices.
The motivation behind Affirmative action policies has been to lessen the impact of past discrimination for minorities, women and persons with disabilities (Summary of an Affirmative Action Plan, 2007). With this idea in mind, an effective affirmative action plan takes into account statistical analysis of the employer’s under utilization of individuals from certain underprivileged groups and implements steps to correct the imbalance in these groups representation (PPS, 2008). Affirmative action plans are often voluntary but can be court mandated.
It should be noted that Affirmative Action is often misunderstood by the general public. The idea that whites are passed over for jobs or that they are removed from positions to make way for unqualified minorities is a misconception (Bennett-Alexander and Hartman, 2007). The affirmative action plan requires that applicants must be of equal competency and only in situations where there is a disparity in groups will one of the applicants be given preference over the other. Affirmative action does not take jobs away from anyone and only assist with placing women and minorities into groups which have been white male dominated.
Another misconception is that affirmative action plans are never ending programs which administrators are forced to keep hiring minorities over whites. The truth is that even court mandated affirmative action plans have requirements that prevent them from being misused, hiring or promoting unqualified persons, and have time limits. Affirmative action plans only continue working until the imbalance is corrected and then they are to be halted (PPS, 2008). If a white person were discriminated against they would have the same rights as anyone else to file suit or grievance.
Because of the large and fast growing, diverse demographics of the United States there are many public administrators who feel that affirmative action is grossly affecting laws and policies in a manner which is harmful to the productive management of government. These administrators were cited in studies as having a negative idea towards affirmative action. These administrators felt that the merit system should be employed over policies of affirmative action. In these same studies, administrators expressed that affirmative policies could possibly hurt diversity because it was at times limiting for human resources (Slack, 1988).
There is a great deal of controversy that still exists concerning affirmative action. Many people believe that it is a form of reverse discrimination rather than a corrective plan of action. The reality is that many industries have historically been white male dominated. For instance, law and medicine have always maintained higher numbers of white male professionals. In contrast other industries have history of having women and blacks in lower paying positions with the least responsibilities. For example, women at one time were expected to become secretaries and clerks but never to become supervisors or managers in corporations. One can easily see that since the inception of affirmative action diversity in the workplace has grown considerably and there are today far more opportunities available for minorities and women. Although there are some negative consequences of affirmative action, the policies have done a measurable benefit to expanding opportunities to minorities and women.
With the population of the US growing towards equilibrium of whites with nonwhite citizens the policies and laws giving preference over certain groups may be antiquated. The policies that will be at the forefront of diversity are slowly evolving to other focuses such as language concerns (Slack, 1988). For instance, bilingual education has become a hot topic within the public education system. As well hiring practices in the government have already begun to change such as hiring bilingual workers to accommodate the growing Hispanic population (Slack, 1988). These hiring practices have already become policies for many human resource departments in order to continue providing effective service delivery. These policy changes will in the future, be more important than affirmative action plans as the population continues to swell with immigrants and nonwhite citizens. These growing demographics will no doubt present further challenges to public administrators.
Bennett-Alexander, D, & Hartman, L (2007). Employment law for business. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Gross, B (2008). What Federal, State or Local Laws Apply to Your Employees? Retrieved from http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/laws-government-regulations- employment/11331–1.html
PPS (2008). Personnel Policy Service, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.ppspublishers.com/articles/gl/aap_who_needs.htm#Court-Ordered%20Plans
Slack, J.D. Affirmative Action and Merit in Public Administration The American Review of Public Administration December 1988 vol. 18
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