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The LOIHM include some consequences for employers in case of violation of the norms, of which the most important are compensation, rejection of the decision and subsequent application of the court decision, and the invalidity of the discriminatory dismissal. An equality plan could reverse this situation. From the social point of view and based on research, the supporters of affirmative actions put forward several arguments.

On the one hand, they suggest that AAMs allow discrimination from the past to be rectified and prevented in the future. In addition, supporters of AAMs sustain that these measures are necessary in order to ensure diversity in the workforce. They also suggest, as a third argument, that AAMs help to ensure that selection processes and personnel decisions are fairer.

The opponents of AAMs, however, use the opposite argument, that is, that these measures are unfair because they give preferential treatment to one group over another. In this way, they argue, personnel decisions fail to take into account meritocratic criteria. In addition, opponents suggest that affirmative measures can be negative for the target group as they cast doubt on their competence. Part of this debate has been focused on how to define the concept of affirmative action, which has led to society being badly informed about what it means.

Previously, Johnson , p. According to the CEOWM, affirmative action is a strategy designed to establish equal opportunities through measures which allow discrimination which is the result of social practices or systems to be rectified. This variety of definitions about affirmative action measures has caused different countries to implement different types of affirmative action policies and has meant that they even use different terminology Pylkkanen, With regard to this last point, although the term "affirmative action" is used in the legislation in most countries for example the USA, Australia, South Africa and Northern Ireland , some others, on the other hand, use the term "positive action" e.

In Holland, the terms "positive discrimination" and "positive action" are sometimes used, and the term "employment equity" has been used in Canada.

With regard to the different types of affirmative action measures, these can be classified according to the relative weighting of two variables, namely, demographic status and merit criteria Krings et al. Thus, there are many ways in which variables can be combined, resulting in different affirmative action measures. For example, measures such as opportunity enhancement programs or education programs for women are considered to prioritize merit rather than gender. However, preferential selection and quota systems are both examples of measures which give more weight to gender than merit.

In general, by soft measures they mean those which are aimed at encouraging participation by women or other target groups in areas where they are underrepresented, but still taking merit rather than gender to be the main criterion. On the other hand, hard measures, by giving priority to gender over merit are considered to be positive, or inverse, discrimination Edwards, The objective is to add more target group members to the pool of qualified candidates.


The affirmative action measures discussed above are aimed at promoting equal opportunities and increasing the representation of disadvantaged groups. However, just because an organization has a program of affirmative action, does not mean that it will necessarily achieve the desired objectives. In this sense, several researchers have suggested that AAMs can produce negative effects and responses. For example, AAMs could create the stereotype that those who benefit from these programs could never have succeeded on their own merits. Another negative consequence, according to its critics, is that it works as a type of reverse discrimination and so may increase tension between groups Lynch, Given the above, it seems clear that reactions toward AAMs are of vital importance for their development and success.

Many of these studies have found that women and black people are generally more favourable toward affirmative action than white people and men e. These results were confirmed in a meta-analysis conducted by Harrison et al. They also believe that the variability in terms of support for affirmative action programs may be due to the way in which such attitudes have been measured. In most studies, participants have evaluated specific affirmative action practices, while in others participants were asked to assess the generic term "affirmative action".

With regard to reactions to different types of AAMs, there is some research which shows that AAMs giving priority to merit over gender have received more support and are considered fairer than those AAMs where gender is more important than merit e. Specifically, Krings et al. Four of them involved measures which gave preference to gender over merit evaluating women's qualifications differently, including quotas for women, organizational incentives for the hiring of a woman and preferential selection of women with equal qualifications.

The other four measures were considered to give more weight to merit than gender special continuous education programs for women, encouragement of applications from women, the financing or provision of childcare facilities and mentoring programs for women. Their results showed that attitudes become increasingly positive as more weight is given to individual merit and increasingly negative as gender takes precedence. Research has also focused on other variables that may be related to reactions toward AAMs. In this sense, Beaton and Tougas conducted a study which examined the reactions to an affirmative action program based on the preferential treatment of three different target groups: Results showed that reactions varied depending on both the sex of those who responded to the questionnaire and on the target group.

Women were more favourable toward affirmative action programs regardless of the nature of the target group. In addition, it was found that women and men do not give equal weight to certain social justice concerns when they evaluate affirmative action programs.


The effects on support for affirmative actions of two social justice concerns were also tested: The results showed that reactions to these programs are more influenced by scope of justice explanations in men than in women. Konrad and Hartmann found that the relationship between gender and attitudes to AAMs focused on women was mediated by perceptions of the impact of the action on material self-interest, belief in the existence of gender discrimination and traditional attitudes toward women. In the Harrison et al. Namely, the perception of fairness moderated the effects of the hardness of the AAM.

Another variable examined was how the description given of the AAMs could affect attitudes towards them. In summary, research on reactions to AAMs, in general, has shown that target groups for example, women or black people are more positive towards such measures.

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However, it seems that the way in which the reactions and attitudes were measured assessing specific measures against the general concept of affirmative action , as well as the type of measure involved preference to merit or gender affect the results. In addition, there are a number of variables e. In addition, most studies have two other characteristics, namely, that the majority were carried out with samples of students, not workers, and that they were conducted in the U. In Europe there are scarcely any studies, and none have been undertaken in Spain. It therefore seems relevant to extend the studies about reactions and attitudes toward women to other countries beyond the USA or Canada, in order to confirm whether there are differences across countries.

The objective of this study is therefore to examine the reactions towards different specific types of AAMs for women and to analyze if there are differences between men and women. At the same time, we will examine whether the unfairness perception about the situation of working women and the threat perceived by non-designated groups variable in this case men have a relationship with the reactions to the specific AAMs. Accordingly, the following hypotheses are advanced: Gender affects reactions toward affirmative action measures for women, with women being more positive than men toward these measures.

There are differences between women and men in unfairness perception about the situation of working women, with women perceiving that the current situation is more unfair than men. There are differences between women and men in threat perception to men, with men perceiving a greater threat. Both women and men show different reactions to AAMs depending on the type of measure.

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Specifically, the more weight merit has over gender, the more positively the measure will be valued. There will be differences in the assessment of AAMs depending on whether a description of specific measures or a general scale on attitudes toward affirmative action measures are used.

Participants were employees of public and private Spanish organizations women and men. The majority of participants The level of studies was as follows: Regarding the type of contract, participants had temporary contracts and had permanent 8 participants did not indicate the type of contract. Participants received a questionnaire containing the scales that are described below, as well as several demographic questions e.

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After filling out the questionnaire, participants were able to return it by email or give it back to a team member. Attitudes toward different types of affirmative action programs. This first part of the questionnaire is composed of descriptions of five different affirmative action measures and was developed based on Krings, Tschan and Bettex Each description refers to one type of affirmative action measure, which could be placed on a continuum according to whether merit is given more weight than gender e.

Previously, university students had filled out a first version of the questionnaire composed of eight descriptions of different AAMs. Results showed that the questionnaire was much too long and some of the eight descriptions were very similar in their content. For this reason, descriptions were combined and reduced to five. Participants had to read a description of each AAM and then rate these on four Likert-scales: Scales ranged from 1 nothing to 5 very much. The alpha coefficient for this scale is.

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