equal opportunity

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Is the concept of ensuring fair treatment for all employees (or prospective employees) throughout the organization. It emphasizes the importance of judging people according to the qualities, skills, and competencies they possess, rather than prejudging them because of characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, disability, age, or sexuality. Advocates of equal opportunities stress that within an organization managers have a central role in ensuring fairness because they make key decisions at the critical junctures that fundamentally affect a person's career chances and quality of working life: recruitment, selection, promotion, appraisal, training/development, and reward. However, one of the main disagreements amongst advocates of equal opportunity is how to ensure it is put into practice. On the one side are those people who argue that it is sufficient to ensure there are fair procedures in place so that there is equal treatment of all employees. On the other side are those people who say that fair procedures are not enough because they do nothing to remove the existing inequality within the workplace. People taking this latter point of view emphasize the importance of equal outcomes. For example, imagine a case of two employees (one a white man, the other an Asian woman) applying for promotion to supervisor. Equal treatment advocates would argue that the main concern is to ensure that the promotion procedures are fair, systematic, and open, and apply equally to both candidates. This would ensure that the candidates compete on equal terms, and the best one would get the promotion. In other words, to use a colloquialism, the candidates would be competing on ‘a level playing-field’. In contrast, equal outcome advocates would argue that ensuring fair procedures is not sufficient because it does not take account of the unfair disadvantage that either of the candidates might have because of prejudice in the past. The Asian woman might have had less opportunity to take responsibilities, and hence have a weaker CV, because of the prejudicial attitudes and actions of her current supervisor. Thus, equal outcome advocates would argue for existing disadvantage to be redressed through establishing quotas for disadvantaged groups to ensure they are represented in the various departments and in the organizational hierarchy. So, the Asian woman's competitive disadvantage because of the past prejudice would be counterbalanced by the organization's obligation to strive towards a representative workforce—only then would the candidates have ‘the level playing-field’. To summarize: advocates of equal opportunity agree on the principle but differ on how to put it into practice. [See managing diversity and equal opportunity policy.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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