One of the less obvious consequences of Barack Obama being elected as the US's first black president later this month - as all the polls currently seem to indicate will happen - is what it may mean for the concept of 'affirmative action'.
It could be argued that the acceptance of Obama by the American public is precisely down to the success of positive or affirmative action in raising the profile of women and people from ethnic minorities within the workplace and government. And it is this type of progress that equalities secretary Harriet Harman hopes to promote as part of the forthcoming Equality Bill by allowing positive discrimination.
What Harman outlined this summer, and will be in the Bill when it is unveiled in the Queen's Speech in December, is that employers will be allowed (though not required) to positively discriminate. This, essentially, means that if everything else (qualifications, experience etc) is equal between two candidates, the fact one is under-represented in that workplace could be used to decide between them. It could of course be applicable to a white male in some circumstances, though clearly it's more likely to mean a woman or someone from a minority.
As the law stands it is illegal for an employer to discriminate at the selection point in this way, emphasises Sikin Andela, partner and employment lawyer at Glovers solicitors.
"You are allowed to discriminate positively when you are talking about access to training, so for example if women are not up to scratch on, say, IT skills in your organisation you could offer them a greater range of training opportunities, such as access to Excel courses. You can also discriminate by giving women who are pregnant special treatment," she explains.
But is this legislation actually needed? Will it change how employers recruit and HR's role and responsibility within the recruitment process?
On the 'is it needed?' question, the statistics alone indicate that there is a cas