Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone

Their successes make the case not for abandoning affirmative action but for continuing it

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Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Abigail Fisher speaks to the media after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in her case in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10

In the coming days, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in a potentially landmark case on the constitutionality of affirmative action. The original lawsuit was filed on behalf of Abigail Fisher, a woman who claims that she was denied admission to the University of Texas because she is white. But study after study shows that affirmative action helps white women as much or even more than it helps men and women of color. Ironically, Fisher is exactly the kind of person affirmative action helps the most in America today.

Originally, women weren’t even included in legislation attempting to level the playing field in education and employment. The first affirmative-action measure in America was an executive order signed by President Kennedy in 1961 requiring that federal contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” In 1967, President Johnson amended this, and a subsequent measure included sex, recognizing that women also faced many discriminatory barriers and hurdles to equal opportunity. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only included sex in the list of prohibited forms of discrimination because conservative opponents of the legislation hoped that including it would sway moderate members of Congress to withdraw their support for the bill. Still, in a nation where white women and black people were once considered property — not allowed to own property themselves and not allowed to vote — it was clear to all those who were seeking fairness and opportunity that both groups faced monumental obstacles.

(MORE: Touré: Why We Still Need Affirmative Action)

While people of color, individually and as groups, have been helped by affirmative action in the subsequent years, data and studies suggest women — white women in particular — have benefited disproportionately. According to one study, in 1995, 6 million women, the majority of whom were white, had jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise held but for affirmative action.

Another study shows that women made greater gains in employment at companies that do business with the federal government, which are therefore subject to federal affirmative-action requirements, than in other companies — with female employment rising 15.2% at federal contractors but only 2.2% elsewhere. And the women working for federal-contractor companies also held higher positions and were paid better.

Even in the private sector, the advancements of white women eclipse those of people of color. After IBM established its own affirmative-action program, the numbers of women in management positions more than tripled in less than 10 years. Data from subsequent years show that the number of executives of color at IBM also grew, but not nearly at the same rate.

(MORE: Eric Liu: What Asian Americans Reveal About Affirmative Action)

The successes of white women make a case not for abandoning affirmative action but for continuing it. As the numbers in the Senate and the Fortune 500 show, women still face barriers to equal participation in leadership roles. Of course, the case for continuing affirmative action for people of color is even greater. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households. Researchers found that the same résumé for the same job application will get twice as many callbacks for interviews if the name on the résumé is Greg instead of Jamal. School districts spend more on predominantly white schools than predominantly black schools. The fact that black workers earn, on average, 35% less than white workers in the same job isn’t erased by the election of an African-American President — one who, by the way, openly praises the role of affirmative action in his life and accomplishments.

As for Fisher, there is ample evidence that she just wasn’t qualified to get into the University of Texas. After all, her grades weren’t that great, and the year she applied for the university, admissions there were actually more competitive than Harvard’s. In its court filings, the university has pointed out that even if Fisher received a point for race, she still wouldn’t have met the threshold for admissions. Yes, it is true that in the same year, the University of Texas made exceptions and admitted some students with lower grades and test scores than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

MORE: Heather Mac Donald: How Affirmative Action Backfires at Universities

131 comments
zcasavant
zcasavant

20 times more, really?  I question that number..... where did this article acquire these numbers?  I think online articles should be required to cite sources, or at least a link for that.

But anyway, seriously, I cannot tell you the number of times I've seen a young black woman at my school and wondered "Do you really deserve to be here, or did you AA your way in?" - and I CAN'T be the only one thinking this!  I try not to think thoughts like this, but it is basically impossible now.  Affirmative Action causes more harm than good.  And how could it not?  It's racism and sexism!  There is NO REASON to consider race or gender in admissions, if merit and need are considered instead.  If someone is poor, they'll get aid based on need, not race.  If their whole race is poor, guess what?  They'll all get scholarships! Punishing or rewarding the college students of today's world for centuries-old treatment of other races is wrong.  And taking from-the-top statistics and applying them to individuals is wrong.  I cannot believe Affirmative Action still EXISTS in today's progressive world.  How is it even still a thing??

Clearly, there haven't been enough lawsuits yet.... the pot needs to be stirred up a LOT more.  The Supreme Court just made a favorable ruling, however, and several states have banned it, so we are progressing a little.  But not enough.  I think disgruntled people need to know where to START to make change.  There are enough people opposing it (millions and millions), I think just a little direction is needed.

mkrause54
mkrause54

The statistics might be misleading too. Many Arabs, Hispanics and Asians consider themselves 'White' on job forms. Even women from Pakistan & India perceive themselves as 'white' due to caste system ethnic identification in their countries of origin. Federal contractors may have embellished their statistics to present some brown women as white high level employees. Federal contractors also may have used the resumes of white women to apply for funding, but these women may not have been actually hired or only paid for a short time after the grant was approved.

mimenteinquisitiva
mimenteinquisitiva

Way to make a TOTALLY BS point using 19yo data sets! Any idiot that believes this needs to look up some current numbers SMH...

SandyReis
SandyReis

What I see is minority, men and women going to college or improving their lives through other ways and marrying white people, paying their white bills in the white suburbs and it all benefits white people in the long term. Jewish people also benefit from this more than any other minority group and they are the only minority group with so much economical power and they are racist to minorities and to white people. Minorities-especially women of color-get very little out of all of this. Maybe asians get special treatment due to being the favorites. 

JaniceMarquis
JaniceMarquis

I am a white educated woman in canada. I have not be able to find employment for 3 years now in ottawa. The reason I am having such a hard time is affirmative action programs. They will not hire a white woman who is born in this country and speaks english. There is french superiority and minority over me. They do not have to be qualified to get any positions, that is why our government is a mess.

RealManAllen
RealManAllen

The Equal Pay (1963), Title 7 (1964), Title 9 (1972), Voc. Rehab. Act (1973), Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978), and the Family Medical Leave Act (1993) are but a FEW examples that prove who the REAL beneficiaries of Affirmative Action were. White American women. And let's even BEGIN to touch on the Progressive Maternalist Reform laws that even predate the Civil Rights Movement. That's a WHOLE OTHER story in and of itself.

CliftonRichard
CliftonRichard

How ironic,that one of the most privileged & entitled groups in American society are the ones whom benefit more so than the perceived "minority" connotation associated with it. The Caucasian man basically pulled a bait & switch by giving the benefits to his,woman. Bamboozled indeed.

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

I really get a kick out of these feminists who sit high on their golden chair and do not have a clue about the real world around them and what people are really going through.

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

Next time I eat at a food bank I will recall this article that white women have privilege!! Funny its only white and natives in food banks you dont see many immigrants!!

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

35 years of slow destruction to my country canada by the Liberal policies that have indebted our nation. We have to stop giving free townhomes to people from africa and focus on helping canadian born!

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

I am a white woman in canada. Canada has a smaller population but we have the highest immigration from the 3rd world countries for no known reason. Now whites are not being hired. In fact if you are white and only speak english you are no longer allowed to apply for a federal government job or a provincial government job. There are now some minorities at the million mark and they still have this stuipid quota. I have worked since I was 15 and have been out of work for 2. 5 years in the capital due to affirmative action quotas and french requirements to read and write in french in all jobs. I have been living in rooms in ottawa and I am low income for the past few years when I am highly skilled. Its very unfair that minorities alot who have only been in canada  a few years get preference over someone like me. I grew up middle class and my family has been here for 400 years.

ahnonever
ahnonever

Affirmative action is organized racism against white people  destroying the race.  This author, Sally, is mentally retarded.  Affirmative action has benefited most all above white women by stomping out their men - the fathers, brothers uncles and other protectors- and pitted stupid white men against women to boot because men believe this garbage. .Anyone with a brain knows if you stomp out and down the white man, that automatically takes the power from white women by default.        The white race is dwindling because of affirmative action.  The lie about white households being 20 times more wealthy than black takes the cake.  All out of cake. 

kwamezulushabaz
kwamezulushabaz

Good article. African Americans have been pointing that out for years. My only quibble is the following quote: 

//Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only included sex in the list of prohibited forms of discrimination because conservative opponents of the legislation hoped that including it would sway moderate members of Congress to withdraw their support for the bill.//

The hyperlinked essay calls this claim myth and goes on to demonstrate why, in their view, the rights of women were inserted into the CRA/Title VII. 


TruBlu
TruBlu

Affirmative action is discrimination. Discrimination is the reason for ending it.

MrSoFantastic
MrSoFantastic

HOW shocking the american system benefiting whites more.

kodac
kodac

Who is majority and who is minority?  The protected classes include Asians, non white Hispanics, Blacks, GLTG, and WOMEN.  Almost everyone, except for just a few, is considered to be "diverse".  Do the math.  Now consider that the labor market is increasingly being governed by large governmental agencies such as Fannie Mae, a huger provider of jobs and contracts, with mandates that require diversity and one can see the development of second class citizenship for the non protected class.  

RonnieDixon
RonnieDixon

In a time when the patriarchy has fallen, when women in the industrialized world in the 21st century with honest means, are no longer oppressed, it is time to abolish programs that discriminate against others purely based upon previous disadvantages. Investments in public education in low socio-economic areas, to help bridge the opportunities gap between the poor and the middle class, would be the best alternative to Affirmative Action. The poor are the truly disadvantaged in today's society. Moreover, stereotypical gender norms are adamant in poor areas,, and sending poor women, with inadequate qualifications, to college may work for some, but there are definitely better alternatives, such as public investments.

prioripete
prioripete

It makes affirmative action an aspect of majority rule than to promote opportunities for minority groups.  It requires to also shift those making management decisions to allow fairer access to resources.

lazarus00000
lazarus00000

The racism of the black community is evident as the irresponsible action of Oblammy when he made his public statement as to how T would look like his son --if he had one. The criminal activities and the kids text shows he was into the "Gangsta" activity. He had been getting more and more aggressive towards the neighborhood as police records show. the problem is that the massive show of "Blackness" when the good revernd and Jessie wanted some sky time on TV as the rable rousers wanted a repeat of the LA riots.

Oblammy was so much more than neglegent when he made those statements. He was throwing his support to people because of their color...the definition of racism. A true leader of a country like America where the laws are made to protect all the people made sure that the media tried, and convicted Z before the case had even been investigated. The outward hatred towards non-black people is growing because of the affirmative action government restrictions. The only thing this policy accomplishes is to reverse the direction of Racism. The restrictions are the type that a socialist government would use, and the last time I looked, We are a Democratic Republic. Racism has a new face.
Lazarus

ysharry
ysharry

As a haphazard process itself without any universal standard, College admission does not reflect any racial discrimination. If we are forced to think that way, Asians and other international students are suffering even more dreadful discrimination and unfairness.

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@mkrause54  and your point...to make it seem...that white women have not in fact...been the greatest benefactors of affirmative action


and believe it or not...the second largest group to have benefitted from federal affirmative action programs...are those who received the affirmative hiring............here is where the 2nd largest group got their affirmative action benefit...white men through that special social benefit...known as the GI Bill 

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@SandyReis  you are speaking in the same terms...with the same tone...as others...so intent on doing you harm


it is not attractive or truthful when they say it...and nether is it when you do

mkrause54
mkrause54

@JaniceMarquis Similar problems occur in the US. Office workers may be hired instead of qualified professionals who earned their own degrees to make their contracts more profitable for the successful grant applicants.

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@mapaxn  and you are correct...the affirmative action  programs since 1964 that have benefitted first and foremost white women...have closed the gap somewhat...but not yet all the way


but if we speak to women as we speak to black folk......time for them to get over...their victimization...and following the lead of those...sex hustlers...who earn their living...pushing discriminatory women's issues


but that we will never do...as the prime beneficiary of these programs...are the families of these white American women

JaniceMarquis
JaniceMarquis

@mapaxn  He hates all whites! Funny thing is that he is jewish. He would not eve be here if my uncle did not fight against the nazis and win in WW2!

sr22
sr22

@mapaxn Lol good one, No way anyone could seriously post the old and busted pay gap myth with a straight face these days, I love your sarcasm!

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@jmarquis59  certain those people from Africa...are responsible for everything wrong in the country...but then the real Native Canadians...just might say...all was good...until those white folks arrived...and where given a subside...to the whole damn country

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@ahnonever  maybe you are not white...and that explains why your income is lower than blacks...or maybe...you just have issues...that keep you from making it on your own

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@ahnonever Your right I dont believe that 20 times the wealth bull either. Now if you are talking about jewish that may hold true!

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@ahnonever To these blacks who complain, I suggest go live in CHINA, INDIA, Saudi Arabia and tell me what they give you and how they treat you and see if they hire you for any job at all or if u get social assistance that a white western nation will give you! Its only western nations that help minorities, yet there are many asian nations who are richer than we are and they dont let any immigrants in their nations!!

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@TruBlu  affirmative action is a corrective measure in part...to address...the negative impacts of past discrimination and inequalities


but then if you are one who benefitted from life in the recent past...you have every reason to be mad...now that everyone is guaranteed the right to use two hands like you...rather than having to live with one hand tied behind their backs

RaymondD.Sweet
RaymondD.Sweet

@TruBlu Unfortunately, the reason why it exists is because of discrimination. You can't discriminate against people for 100's of years and then expect them to have equal experience to other people. If a company just stopped discriminating in 1995 - then you will see a white male with 40 years experience and Black male with 10 years of experience. counting the 10 years to ramp up to a decent palce. Sorry, considering that Black males have higher unemployment rate than whites the discrimination is not working and not happening.

RaymondD.Sweet
RaymondD.Sweet

@kodac Please let me know when this will happen. Here we are over 50 years later and the white man is still not 2nd class.

zcasavant
zcasavant

@RonnieDixon 100% agreed.  Biggest problem with AA: it is too black-and-white.  Literally.  If all the racist and sexist money spent by colleges was put to better use, by improving the communities they are serving, we'd be better off all-round.  As we become LESS sexist and MORE diversified in this country, AA is starting to look archaic.

Edit: It STARTED to look archaic 20 years ago.  It is somehow still going on.  I guess MLK's famous speech didn't mean that much to anyone after all.

RaymondD.Sweet
RaymondD.Sweet

@RonnieDixon Just so you know there were 47 people specially admitted. 5 were black. Did Abigail want one of the Black spots, because they didn't deserve it, but the 42 white people deserved it.

RaymondD.Sweet
RaymondD.Sweet

@RonnieDixon Funny how you sitting there think it's not happening today. It just happened to me 2 weeks ago. So, since the programs don't change attitude or behavior perhaps it's time to do something new. BTW did you know that an educated Black male is less likely to get hired than a white male with a high school education. So, sorry - education does not fit discrimination.

JaniceMarquis
JaniceMarquis

@prioripete  And just who is a minority! What about a mixed white person, are they not a minority too!

kodac
kodac

@prioripete What is majority and what is minority?  The protected groups include Blacks, non white Hispanics, Asians, GLTG, and WOMEN.  Add them up!  Almost everyone, but a select few, is considered to be "diverse".  Now throw in an ever increasing mandate for diversity by big governmental agencies such as Fannie Mae, huge providers of jobs and contracts, and the result is a minority group of second class citizens.  As the government grows and the voting power continues to shift, I fear that this second class status will be permanent.

ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross
ArmondBellamarBarboza-Ross

@mkrause54  and that is a affirmative action program designed to benefit those already employed by them...a tool used by most US employers...to hire from within


not to be surprised...to current employee benefit...has been a benefit...mostly enjoyed by white Americans

gre
gre

What the heck is GLTG? Do you mean LGBT or GLBT? Never heard of GLTG. Does it mean "Good Luck to Gamers"?