Affirmative Action, EEO & Diversity

There is always a big confusion about the difference between Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity or they assume they are one and the same.

Diversity Unites

Diversity Unites

 That could be the farthest statement from the truth, we will try to explain the difference and inter-relation between them 

  • Affirmative Action: Is initiated by the Federal government to ensure equal employment opportunity and opening doors as well as creating avenues for everyone at the workplace to be involved. AA is a set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin to provide opportunities to a class of qualified individuals who have either historically or actually been denied, Affirmative Action is about numbers, it is a quota based program that promotes inclusion to increase the participation of minorities and women in the workplace in an otherwise unfair race and to give everyone a fair chance to compete.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity:  A term used by the federal government to make sure that workplaces are free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment, and not disadvantage people because they belong to particular groups as race, color, national origin, sex, physical or mental ability, religion, medical condition, ancestry, marital status or age.  The principle behind EEO is that everyone should have the same access to opportunities. 
  • Diversity: Is about relationships: It is a comprehensive organizational and managerial process for creating an environment that capitalize on the potential of all employees by valuing diversity.  It is about appreciating the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique in an atmosphere that promotes and celebrates individual and collective achievement. It is not about numbers it is about relationships.  Dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital or partner status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience and job classification


Affirmative Action

Equal Employment Opportunity

Targets outreach to

 Under-utilized groups

Targets employee that belong to particular groups Inclusive of all groups
Legally Mandated Legally Mandated Not legally mandated
Helps prevent discrimination Eliminates discrimination in human resource policies and practices Focuses on developing an environment maximizing the potential of all employees by

valuing diversity

Measures good faith efforts in making affirmative action progress for minorities and women Provides equal access and opportunity – no one excluded from participation Business necessity given workforce trends, broader than ethnicity, race, and    gender

 Although the 3 items are different as shown in the table, they are inter-related, they are all targeted at achieving equal opportunity at the workplace.  Diversity and affirmative action each broaden the concept of equal employment opportunity in different ways. Diversity, equal employment opportunity, and affirmative action together provide a strong foundation for any

organization to achieve a fair and inclusive workplace.  Equal employment opportunity is the foundation theory that unifies diversity and affirmative action efforts; that everyone should have equal access to employment opportunities

In the upcoming posts we will further discuss Diversity, its management and its effects on business.


Sahar Andrade

Twitter: @saharconsulting


6 thoughts on “Affirmative Action, EEO & Diversity

  1. Great article Sarah!

    In speaking of diversity, there are other unmandated items that many do not take into consideration such as diversity of thought, culture, upbringing, etc.

    These unseen factors also contribute greatly to the success of companies/agencies as well, but are oftentimes overlooked.

    As an EEO professional for many years, providing everyone an opportunity to compete at the same level as all others is extremely important to me. While this is a challenge on many fronts it is certainly a worthwhile cause to be involved in.

    • Ray:
      I couldn’t have said it better – you are so right Diversity is about everything and anything that makes a person unique but most people think it is Age, Religion, Race, Gender and sexual orientation
      I will visit your blog as I loved your post here- Thank you
      I have a column at technorati about Diversity: www, – If you are interested
      Again Thank you –

  2. Bill:
    Thank you I honestly don’t know but I do have an RSS feed on the top of the blog may be you can add my blog RSS that way

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