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

104 comments
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.

AKhummer
AKhummer

The thing about affirmative action is that it places unqualified people in positions they don't deserve. Your grades should be the criteria used for entrance into college not your sex, color or creed. Women don't earn as much as men because most are caretakers and do not put in the long hours that men do. Women also take off from work due to child birth. This all affects the bottom line of your yearly earnings. Studies do not take this into effect and continue to generate false data.

jimathai
jimathai

I guess Ms. Fisher has that victim mentality.

hummingbird
hummingbird

Good and timely article (pun intended). I've been very annoyed with this young lady ever since her lawsuit against affirmative action became public. She can't deal with the fact that she was rejected by Texas University and now wants to hurt many others in her revenge plot. In her spiteful head, she thinks she should have gotten whatever she wanted. Obviously, she's not too bright as she'd have realized that affirmative action has benefited her kind too.

kodac
kodac

It is improper and unproductive to practice these forms of discrimination.  The government should not be creating this animosity.  Many parts of the world are being torn apart by racial, ethnic, religious divisions.  We all should observe the world and learn.  We all need to recognize how fortunate we are that our ancestors traveled to and built America; regardless of the circumstance.  Otherwise, in all likelihood, we would live in conditions that are much more impoverished, insecure, and less free.

suupasugoi
suupasugoi

No mention that women are now routinely discriminated against in college admissions in preference for white men? Nice.

PBoggs
PBoggs

White people in America has practiced affirmative action (or preferential treatment for white people) for 400 years. And now the Federally-mandated form of affirmative action, which was originally designed to level the playing field for people of color continues to benefit white people, only this time its the women. The same women who are mothers, daughters, wives and girlfriends of white males. So who do you think will ultimately benefit from the LGBT movement? You guessed it - gay white people, or the sexual partners of other white people.

Anyone seeing a pattern here?

Atul
Atul

Are not benefits to White women  same as benefitting white man?Create dummy front corporation and negate benefits of affirmative action to minorities?

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!

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!!

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.

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@AKhummer Maybe this explains why I have the highest testing in the ottawa hospital plus 10 years experience in health records but no one calls me! I am white and the most qualified!

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@AKhummer There are people in canada who get jobs just because of their color they have no skills or even proper english and some never used a computer before!



jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@kodac I personally feel we shoudl abolish it. Let each group hire their own. Keep the quotas in govt depts.........thats it.....its pretty balanced now if u compare it to other nations around the world where minorities have few rights........

LeanderKelly
LeanderKelly

Really, you may not have thought about this but most the people whos are living decent lives are doing so because of how their ancertor got here.

JaniceMarquis
JaniceMarquis

@suupasugoi  Do you want to know what is even more scary. Men are not being hired from any race hardly now in Canada, its all women. So men are either low income or some join gangs. Canada is becoming a scary place now.

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@suupasugoi Wow on canada its the opposite! A white woman now has to work twice as hard to get the same privildge as a minority woman with half the brains!

JaniceMarquis
JaniceMarquis

@PBoggs  Actually thats not true. I see ads in canada now for a gay black. In fact in Ontario the premier has a new law to hire only black women and promote them higher (they area already in great paying admin jobs that start at like 64000 a year and almost all of them are not even born in canada!)....so blacks born here will not be considered, NO men will be considered, and all other races will not be considered. They already make up 19% of the provincial govt jobs and they are only 8% of the province! Thats why I cannot find a good job in my country and I have to move 700 miles west as there is no work there. But under this new law if a white town somewhere has a job they will bring a nonwhite to fill it from another city, even if there is not one minority in that town! And the other 'brown' women are more angry than white women, they say they are more educated than the black women are, well how do they think we feel its our country and language!

chaoticsouls1
chaoticsouls1

@PBoggs Sports programs in basketball/football get kickbacks if they get more black people on their team. So how is that fair to white people? Also, white people did invent Internet/airplanes/almost everything you use today, and turned USA into the super power country it is today. If you are so racist against white people you should move to a black country. No one is stopping you.

aztecian
aztecian

@PBoggs white people once again manipulating the system...what else is new?

hummingbird
hummingbird

@Atul Yes, it is indeed. The white women bring home their high income to their households and that further benefit white households. This article helps us to see through this plot to always keep whites richer even through affirmative action.

gre
gre

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

kodac
kodac

@LeanderKelly Right, well said.  Much of the rest of the world, whose ancestors did not get here, are not living nearly as decent of a lifestyle.  Americans are fortunate to benefit from the hard work of our ancestors.

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@vetritamizh @kodac @LeanderKelly Thats not true. Many cultures invaded other nations. The persians invaded greece, England invaded Ireland. I could go on. They worked smarter and alot of natives worked with the whites side by side, contrary to what u think.....how do u think the fur trade started, it was natives teaching the white man how to hunt, they both profited off the land!

jmarquis59
jmarquis59

@kodac @LeanderKelly I think all people work hard, its not how hard they worked, it was their mentality, christian values and they were very disciplined. Alot of minorities are not disciplined. I heard in some countries if u have a meeting its expected hardly anyone will showup on time, they tend to come 30 mins or more late- the middle east is known for this.

vetritamizh
vetritamizh

@kodac @LeanderKelly 

Hard-work of ancestors is not only the reason. Main reason is conquered/invaded/stolen resources and land from Native Americans.

If the same resources/land were handed over to Arabs, Chinese or Indians they would have become as much rich as present-day Americans.

I doubt Africans though.