Affirmative Action - Definition and Explanation

Affirmative Action – Definition and Explanation

Understanding Affirmative Action: Definition, Importance, and Examples

In today’s world, fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is paramount in every sphere of society. Affirmative Action stands as a pivotal tool in this pursuit, aiming to level the playing field for historically marginalised groups. 


Affirmative Action refers to proactive measures taken by organisations or governments to ensure equal opportunity for historically marginalised groups. It aims to address past and present discrimination by implementing policies that promote diversity and inclusion. These policies may include preferential hiring, promotion, or admission practices for underrepresented groups.


  1. Promoting Diversity: Affirmative Action fosters diversity by actively seeking candidates from various backgrounds, including those traditionally underrepresented in certain fields or institutions.
  2. Addressing Systemic Inequality: By acknowledging and rectifying past injustices, Affirmative Action helps dismantle systemic barriers that hinder the progress of marginalised communities.
  3. Creating Inclusive Environments: Implementing Affirmative Action policies fosters inclusive environments where individuals feel valued and supported regardless of their background.
  4. Enhancing Innovation and Creativity: Diversity fuels innovation by bringing together individuals with different perspectives, experiences, and ideas. Affirmative Action contributes to this by ensuring diverse representation.


  1. Higher Education: Many universities and colleges practice Affirmative Action in their admissions process. For instance, if historically marginalised groups, such as racial minorities or individuals from low-income backgrounds, are underrepresented, institutions may implement policies to increase their representation.
  2. Corporate Hiring: In the corporate world, companies often implement Affirmative Action initiatives to ensure diversity within their workforce. This may involve targeted recruitment efforts aimed at underrepresented groups or the establishment of diversity quotas for hiring and promotions.
  3. Government Contracts: Governments may require contractors to adhere to Affirmative Action policies as a condition of receiving contracts. This ensures that businesses receiving public funds actively promote diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices.


Affirmative Action serves as a proactive approach to addressing inequality and fostering diversity and inclusion in various sectors. By implementing policies that prioritise equal opportunity, organisations and governments can create more equitable societies where individuals from all backgrounds have the chance to thrive. Embracing Affirmative Action not only benefits marginalised groups but also enriches communities and organisations by harnessing the power of diversity.

In summary, Affirmative Action is a vital step towards building a more just and inclusive world.


Crosby, F. J., Iyer, A., & Sincharoen, S. (2006). Understanding affirmative action. Annu. Rev. Psychol.57, 585-611.

Rubenfeld, J. (1997). Affirmative action. Yale LJ107, 427.

Fryer Jr, R. G., & Loury, G. C. (2005). Affirmative action and its mythology. Journal of Economic Perspectives19(3), 147-162.

Holzer, H. J., & Neumark, D. (2000). What does affirmative action do?. ILr review53(2), 240-271.

Holzer, H. J., & Neumark, D. (2006). Affirmative action: What do we know?. Journal of policy analysis and management25(2), 463-490.

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