Affirmative Action is a remedial and preventative concept imposing a duty on employers, employment agencies, and labor unions to take positive steps to improve the work opportunities of women, racial and ethnic minorities, handicapped, and persons belonging to other groups who have been deprived of job opportunities. Affirmative Action involves activities in each step of the employment process, such as recruitment, selection, training, promotion and retention, which are taken for the specific purpose of eliminating the present effects of past discrimination. An effectively implemented Affirmative Action program would result in measurable yearly improvements in achieving a representative and balanced work force. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has the responsibility to monitor and coordinate Affirmative Action in state government. The primary document giving the Commission this responsibility is the Governor's Executive Order Number Fifteen.
The Governor's Executive Order Number Fifteen requires each state agency to annually report to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on its Affirmative Action program. The Commission then issues periodic reports on the status of Affirmative Action in Iowa state agencies. The latest report, covering fiscal years 1978 and 1979, has recently been released.
The most obvious positive Affirmative Action development has been the improved cooperation and effort by the state agencies. In 1978, only 29 of the 57 state agencies submitted Affirmative Action plans to the Commission. Of those 29, only three plans were considered acceptable. In 1979, 56 of the 57 state agencies submitted Affirmative Action plans to the Commission. Out of those 56, only one was considered incomplete. While the mere development of acceptable Affirmative Action plans does not guarantee the plan's successful implementation, the Commission is encouraged by the good foundation upon which future actions can be monitored and built.
Overall, the number of state employees and the composition remain relatively unchanged. While the total number of state employees in 1979 decreased by 91 from 1978 to a total of 20,879, the number of minority employees increased by 40 and the number of female employees increased by 53. The increases were rather small; therefore, it's difficult to assess whether the increases were due solely to Affirmative Action efforts.
In any event, minorities are generally still underutilized and females are still underrepresented in the Officials/Administrators and Professional categories. The majority of Iowa state employees work in the seven large metropolitan areas (Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Sioux City and Waterloo) where most of the minority state employees also reside. The black labor force estimate for the seven areas represents 2.6% of the population. State employment, however, has 1.6% black employees and 2.78 non-white employees. Females represent 47% of the state employees but they hold only 16% of the Officials/Administrators positions and 38% of the professional positions.
Although there is still underutilization and underrepresentation for minorities and females, the state has maintained at least a status quo and has not diminished its Affirmative Action gains. One of the fears expressed by many people in times of general economic stress has been the adverse impact of "last-hired, first-fired" on protected groups. Based on the latest Affirmative Action report, this has not occurred in Iowa state government. The maintenance of status quo, however, can represent a lack of commitment to Affirmative Action. This lack of commitment is shown by the fact that 26 of the 57 state agencies have no minority employees. Although many of the 26 agencies are very small, sizable agencies, such as the Department of Banking and the Soil Conservation Commission are members of this group.
Executive Order Number Fifteen also calls for the state agencies to have their operations serve as models for business, industry, labor and education. The state agencies, as a whole, have not fulfilled this responsibility in the Affirmative Action area. State agencies need to be more committed and more aggressive in pursuing Affirmative Action goals to bring about the changes intended by the Governor's Executive Order.