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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Diversity made simple:

Understanding important terms

Before we discuss diversity efforts at Purdue, it will be helpful to define some commonly used (and commonly misunderstood) terms related to diversity:

Affirmative action plan: A plan that focuses on the hiring, training, and promoting of individuals in protected classes that are underrepresented in the organization�s workforce.

Affirmative action program: A program required by the OFCCP (see below) in which employers identify conspicuous imbalances in their workforce and take positive steps to correct underrepresentation of protected classes, such as females, minorities, or employees over 40 years of age.

Diversity: Includes characteristics or factors such as personality, work style, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, having a disability, socioeconomic level, educational attainment, and general work experience. Diversity refers to all of the characteristics that make individuals different from each other.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): A commission of the federal government charged with enforcing the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other fair employment practices legislation. Purdue University is subject to these regulations and this commission.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP): The agency charged with enforcing affirmative action regulations for government contractors under the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Purdue University is a government contractor and is regulated by the OFCCP.

Individuals and organizations tend to use various terms related to diversity interchangeably. We need to understand how diversity and affirmative action differ to understand the efforts being made at Purdue to diversify our workforce.

Diversity within the workforce can be used by an organization to maximize workforce productivity, organizational goal accomplishment, and individual career development objectives. Diversity is really about leveraging all aspects of human potential. The workforce and our stakeholders are changing in various ways, and now include people with disabilities, dual-earner families, single-parent families, parents with infant children (child care), aging workers, and employees caring for elderly parents and relatives (elder care).

Affirmative action is one of several regulatory programs designed to create diversity through the recruitment, development, and retention of qualified individuals who have been historically underrepresented in the workforce.

Below is a chart that helps clarify how diversity and affirmative action are different:

Snap Shot of Difference

Affirmative Action � Executive Order 11246

Title VII Civil Rights Act 1964


External Regulatory Bodies

Office of Federal Contracts and Compliance Programs


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


Not federally regulated

Purdue Contact

VP of Human Relations

Human Resource Services

VP of Human Relations

Human Resource Services

VP of Human Relations

Human Resource Services


Ensures proper utilization of minorities and women within the workplace. Establishes plans to correct underutilization of protected groups.

Makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, or national origin in all terms and conditions of employment, including hires, promotions, transfers, compensation, access to training, and other related decisions.

Examines internal processes and systems to optimize an individual�s connectedness with the organization.

Purdue is committed to increasing the diversity of its workforce because we understand that a diverse workforce can move us toward the preeminent status that is the goal of all our strategic planning.

Agencies such as the OFCCP and the EEOC have developed regulations that promote diversity through specific programs, such as affirmative action. In addition, they define illegal employment-related activities and provide remedies for violations of their regulations, including withholding federal funds.

It is important that the Purdue community understand the relationship between diversity and the regulations designed to promote diversity.


The relationship between diversity itself and the regulations that help us achieve it can be very positive if we focus on achieving diversity.


If we focus only on the regulatory issues, we will fall short of obtaining the benefits of having a diverse workforce.

Please see the related article in this issue of LeadingEdition to read about steps Purdue has taken to increase diversity among our non-faculty staff members.

Source: SHRM: Society for Human Resource Management, Diversity Toolkit, copyright 2005.

- Adedayo Adeniyi, assistant director
HR Training and Development

- Deborah Turner, assistant director
Employment and Compensation

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.