Posted: May 25th, 2022
Sister’s Dilemma regarding Affirmative Action in the Financial Industry
Overall, the moral dilemma presented in this given scenario, on a general level, is if it is morally acceptable for a company to use affirmative action to redress a previously existing institutional negative imbalance of individuals in positions of authority from minority groups, such as African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, or a negative imbalance of individuals from traditionally discriminated against groups and backgrounds, such as women. Or, in the case of my sister, an individual from both such groups.
Specifically, for the individual in question, the moral and ethical dilemma question could also be framed as, even if she believes such political actions are justified, should my sister allow her own clearly qualified credentials to be potentially debased, given that her hiring seems to be presented an act of affirmative action to the office, given that all other candidates for the position were also minority women?
Those who are affected are not merely the individual in question considering her own fated position within the company, nor those whom she is in competition with. It is also all the members of minority groups within the company whose contribution might be devalued if her hiring is perceived to be based on affirmative action alone — yet if she refuses the position, their potential fates could also be in jeopardy, as another lost position may be given to those less committed to female, black, and nonwhite advancement within the company.
One has a right to pursue one’s own self-advancement, and also one has the duty to remedy past wrongs — wrongs done not only to one’s self-interest at the company in question, but also to one’s people at the company, and to one’s people in American society.
The moral rankings as such could be defined as follows: 1. The obligation one owes to one’s self (my sister) 2. Those ‘the self’ has an immediate contractual and professional obligation to, namely those ‘under’ one at the company 3.The other women of color at the company 4. Women of color in general 5. The other employees at the company in general 6. People of color, as perceived by society. 7. Those in one’s family whom are reliant upon one, emotionally and/or financially
Even if companies do not have legally or morally defined human rights responsibilities, clearly my sister as a right to herself as a private individual to protect her own survival, and a larger personal responsibility to those human beings nearest to her care and concern on a professional and a personal level. (One World Net, 2004)
In this particular scenario, clearly the candidate in question is qualified for the position based on her job performance and her credentials alone. Even if she lived in a color blind society, or lived a society that did not perceive African-Americans or people of color to be ‘other’ or ‘different’ (for instance, if she was a highly ranked Senior Commercial Underwriter in Nigeria, and all of her interviewers, employees under her sphere of responsibility, and competitors for the promotion were Black) she would clearly have a strong, personal argument for suggesting that she is the best woman for the job, and the best person for the job.
The dilemma is, of course, that my sister as such, does not live in such an idealized and color-blind world. In her decision to embark upon a successful career in the financial industry, she found herself in a world with a long legacy of discrimination against people and women of color. To remedy this, her firm is attempting to fulfill the position she aspires to with a ‘minority’ candidate, using interviewers whom are mainly minorities to interview the prospective candidates. All of the prospective candidates for the position were minority women. Immediately, there becomes a fear that, when my sister accepts this position she is clearly qualified for, her accomplishments and her authority will be compromised because of the poor way the company has gone about the hiring procedure.
Worse yet, to circumvent her authority still further, the woman whom was her lone competitor chooses to bow out of the running for personal reasons. Of course, my sister has every right to accept the position, based upon her personal credentials. The concern is that her authority may be challenged, through no fault of her own. One response to this allegation is that, like discrimination itself, this is another professional and personal challenge my sister must meet head on. But it raises the concern whether affirmative action is justified at all, or does the policy further compromise individuals in positions of leadership who are of color?
Lyndon Johnson once said that after chaining a man for hundreds of years, you cannot expect him to run the same race, as far and as fast, as someone who has had hundreds of years of a head start. (Johnson, 1962) So it is true of affirmative action — it is indeed a legitimate response to a nation that has historically persecuted nonwhites and denied them equal opportunities and educations. Unfortunately, those of extraordinary merit whose achievements and determination are so great may see those achievements compromised by the finger pointing that they are where they are merely because of racially preferential treatment. However the irony is that men who are white, or individuals from more comfortable backgrounds are not subject to similar dismissive attitudes regarding their success, as in ‘you only got into Harvard Law School because your parents could afford to send you to The Princeton Review to prep for your high SATs/then to Harvard Undergrad’/then to make an alumni contribution to the school’ if they are highly qualified. (Diversity Inc., 2004)
Although it may be difficult, my sister must personally accept this promotion for her own self-interest and own merit, for those who have supported her success throughout her life, and also to raise the profile and advancement of other individuals, like herself, whom are accomplished within the company, yet struggle, despite the presence of affirmative action policies, against racism within corporate America and everyday. (Government Guide, “Affirmative Action,” 2004)
Of course, those who do not rank ‘the self’ highest in a list of prioritization of rights might argue that my sister should not accept the position, because it would create a perception that affirmative action alone is the reason she got promoted, and damage the image of women and minorities at the company, thus placing the societal rights highest in the list of prioritization. However, to do so would compromise her job at the company because of the flagrant nature of the statement she would make, and would do little to remedy the position of African-American women at the company. (To bring a lawsuit against the company, she would have to prove personal harm was done to her, which clearly it was not in material terms.)
Given the scenario, I too would go along with my sister, and agree to accept the promotion and the concept of Affirmative Action as a whole within the company and within society. I would do all that I could to show that my position was justified, and to embark upon my new responsibilities with a fair and open mind.
Government Guide. (2004) “Affirmative Action.” http://www.governmentguide.com/issues/affirmativeaction.adp
Diversity Inc. “The History of Affirmative Action Policies.” http://www.diversityinc.com/members/4314.cfm
Johnson, Lyndon. (July 2, 1964) Speech Definition Affirmative Action. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/affirmative1.html
One World Net. (2004) “Do Companies Have Human Rights Responsibilities?
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