Women and ethical compromises

Via Knowledge@Wharton   Article

Why Emphasizing Ethics Matters to Female Employees

“The first study found that women on average felt more moral outrage than men when confronted with decisions that went against their values, and also thought those decisions made less practical business sense. … ‘When ethical values were compromised, people were as outraged when social status was gained as when money was gained’ …

when presented in the second study with simulated job descriptions in the fields of consulting, private equity and wealth management, women only reported less interest than men when the blurbs stated that the firms required employees to prioritize profits or status over ethics when they conflicted. But when the position outlines indicated that a company valued ethics, or when they simply didn’t mention ethics at all, women expressed as much interest in the jobs as male participants …

In the final study … researchers asked men and women to classify words they associated with either business or law. Women’s reaction times showed they were more likely than men to correlate words like ‘wrong’ or ‘unethical’ with business, even though the legal field typically isn’t devoid of ethical dilemmas. ‘The research doesn’t clearly say that women are more ethical than men … and it doesn’t say that business actually is more unethical than law or medicine. It says that women perceive it to be more unethical’ …

‘… the research suggests that, to the extent that businesses want to retain talented women, they should be holding ethics training, selecting leaders who have high ethical standards and emphasizing ethics within the core culture of the company’ ….  ‘It could also be a good reason to encourage all employees to voice ethical concerns when they have them.'”


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