Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

What is the difference between EEO, affirmative action and diversity?

Equal employment opportunity (EEO) means freedom from discrimination on the basis of protected classes such as race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability or genetic information. EEO rights are guaranteed by federal and state fair employment laws and are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and its state counterparts.

Affirmative action plans (AAPs) define an employer's standard for proactively recruiting, hiring and promoting women, minorities, disabled individuals and veterans. Affirmative action is deemed a moral and social obligation to amend historical wrongs and eliminate the present effects of past discrimination. AAPs include numerical measures with the intent of increasing the representation of minorities. Federal contractors above certain dollar limits are required to institute AAPs, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is charged with enforcing contractor affirmative action mandates. Without violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, other employers may institute voluntary AAPs to remedy past discrimination if certain conditions are met.

Diversity initiatives are goals devised to measure acceptance of minorities by embracing cultural differences within the workplace. Diversity initiatives are twofold: valuing diversity and managing diversity. The value of diversity is achieved through awareness, education and positive recognition of the qualities, experiences and work styles that make individuals unique (e.g., age, race, religion, disability, ethnicity) within the workplace. The management of diversity expounds upon the experience and establishes the business case for diversity that is closely aligned with an employer's organizational goals.

The combination of required or voluntary AAPs and diversity initiatives create opportunities for cultural inclusion, respect for differences, acceptance and respect for all workers.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.