The Labor & Employment Blog is a forum for practitioners and Bloomberg BNA editors to share ideas, raise issues, and network with colleagues.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
by Lydell C. Bridgeford
Chambers, president of the American Association for Affirmative
Action (AAAA), explains why corporate America and the federal
government need to stay committed to affirmative action programs.
AAAA, founded in
1974, represents professionals who manage affirmative action, equal
opportunity, diversity inclusion and human resource programs in the
private and public sectors.
Bloomberg BNA: The terms "equal employment opportunity,"
"affirmative action", and "diversity initiatives" are sometimes
used interchangeably, but, in general, how are they
Chambers: There are similarities between
diversity and affirmative action. Specifically, both efforts seek
to promote inclusion and lessen discriminatory practices. However,
the differences lie in concept and approach. These differences and
their outcomes impact organizations differently.
Diversity programs mostly focus on organizational culture,
shaping behavior, and leveraging differences to ultimately impact
the bottom line. Affirmative action is numbers oriented, aimed at
creating an environment where equal opportunity can prevail.
Bloomberg BNA: What are the major developments, shifts
and trends in how U.S. corporations have established and instituted
equal opportunity and affirmative action offices and
Chambers: There must be a linkage between
affirmative action programs and diversity and inclusion (D&I)
programs. Affirmative action must be used to measure progress
and to identify where there may be barriers to diversity and
inclusion as well as equal opportunity. It seems that more and
more, employers are providing less support for affirmative action
in terms of staff and financial support and elevating diversity and
inclusion with resources and direct reporting to the highest level
of the organization.
Bloomberg BNA: Is there anything AAAA and its members
would like the federal government to do in terms of equal
employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative action (AA)
laws/regulations that it is currently not doing?
Chambers: In the fall of 2011, AAAA met
with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office
of Personnel Management (OPM) to discuss possible collaboration in
the implementation of President Obama's
executive order on diversity and inclusion.
During these discussions, it became apparent that agencies would
need assistance in thinking about a structure and a process for
moving toward a more collaborative model. To better understand the organizational structure and role of
HR, EEO, and D&I professionals and to identify best practices,
AAAA offered to survey its members who represent an extensive
network of HR, D&I, and EEO practitioners. That survey is
currently underway. Findings of the survey will culminate
into a report.
We would also like for the federal government to take a position
on affirmative action in terms of it being fair, prevents
discrimination, give everyone a chance to compete and that its
essence is opportunity for the disenfranchised opposed to
Bloomberg BNA: What's on the
agenda at your upcoming annual conference/meeting in Washington,
D.C. (June 13-15)?
Chambers: The focus of our 2012
conference is America's changing demographics. We
will discuss where this nation is headed with regards to education,
employment and governance in view of demographic and
social-economic studies. This conference is just the first
step in setting the stage for an ongoing national discussion
examining the future of our education system and how to educate and
make job ready the increasing number of students of color and
economically disadvantage students.
Bloomberg BNA: Is there anything else you would like to
Chambers: There is still a need for
affirmative action. The
increase in EEOC charges filed supports the need for
affirmative action. There is a belief that diversity has replaced
the need for affirmative action. Diversity focuses on inclusion,
while affirmative action is designed to focus on historically
excluded groups. One could argue that diversity wouldn't exist
without affirmative action.
As affirmative action continues to lay the foundation for
workplace equity, and continues to be a way of opening doors that
historically have been shut to: women, minorities, persons with
disabilities, and even veterans.
If you are interested in participating in a Q&A on
enforcement actions, legal developments and news related to the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Office of Federal
Contract Compliance Programs or have a suggestion for a Q&A
topic, contact me at email@example.com. You can
also follow me on Twitter @LCBridgeford.
to post a comment.
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