Although most people are under the impression that affirmative action is mainly for black people or is solely for people of color, many studies have shown that white women actually benefit from affirmative action just as much or maybe even more.
As Sally Kohn explains in her Time Magazine article, “Affirmative Action Helps White Women More Than Others,” there are many studies which provide ample evidence to support this. According to Kohn,
“In 1995, 6 million women, the majority of whom were white, had jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise held but for affirmative action…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.”
This data actually makes a lot of sense seeing as the phrase “affirmative action” was initially used by Kennedy in his 1961 Executive Order mandating that all federal contractors “take 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.” However, in 1967, President Johnson amended this order to include gender in this list of qualities so that affirmative action would benefit women as well. This is due to the fact that they too are at a disadvantage and face obstacles in our male-dominated society, especially taking into account that women were once considered property as well.
All of this is very ironic considering the fact that white women are currently some of the biggest adversaries of affirmative action. In the past few years, there have been countless cases in which white women have sued colleges and universities based off of their flawed perceptions of affirmative action. Many see it only as nothing more than a system put in place to unfairly benefit black people and put white people at an unfair disadvantage. This is evident in the case of Abigail Fisher, a white girl who is suing the University of Texas after she didn’t get accepted, claiming that undeserving applicants of color unfairly stole her spot at the school as a result of affirmative action. It is people like her who put affirmative action in danger, as she takes her case to the supreme court, where Justice Scalia has already expressed his disliking for affirmative action.
Why is it that so many white women are not only reluctant to stand up for affirmative action but are actively fighting against it? Perhaps it is because they are not aware of how much they benefit from it, or perhaps are not ready to accept these facts. Either way, if all women were in support of affirmative action, it would be much easier to prevent against its elimination.