affirmative action

(noun) The practice of giving preferential treatment (e.g., education or employment) to underrepresented groups such as the disabled, the elderly, ethnic minorities, and women who have experienced discrimination in the past.

Example: Extending admission offers to ethnic minority students at a university over applicants in the ethnic majority who may have higher test scores and GPAs.

Audio Pronunciation: (af·fir·ma·tive ac·tion)

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Usage Notes:

  • Affirmative action as a term began when John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) signed Executive Order 10925 on March 6th, 1961, that mandated, “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” Women were not afforded these same protections until Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) signed Executive Order 11375 on October 13, 1967. It is important to note that these two laws only effected the federal workforce and government contracts, not the entire working public.
  • Also called:
    • positive discrimination (particularly in the United Kingdom).
    • reverse discrimination

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