The Business of Ethics and Gender

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Journal of Business Ethics (2006) 64: 101–116 DOI 10.1007/s10551-005-3327-x

Ó Springer 2006

The Business of Ethics and Gender

A. Catherine McCabe Rhea Ingram Mary Conway Dato-on

ABSTRACT. Unethical decision-making behavior within organizations has received increasing attention over the past ten years. As a result, a plethora of studies have examined the relationship between gender and business ethics. However, these studies report conflicting results as to whether or not men and women differ with regards to business ethics. In this article, we propose that gender identity theory [Spence: 1993, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64, 624–635], provides both the theory and empirical measures to explore the influence of psychological gender traits and gender-role attitudes on ethical perceptions of workplace behaviors. Statistical analyses of the data reveal that based on sex alone, no differences occur between men and women in their ethical perceptions. Yet, when a multidimensional approach to gender is applied, results show that expressive traits and egalitarian gender-role attitudes contribute to both men’s and women’s propensity to perceive unethical workplace behaviors as unethical. The implications of these findings and suggestions for future research are presented.

KEY WORDS: Business ethics, ethical perceptions, expressive traits, gender, gender identity theory, instrumental traits ABBREVIATIONS: GRA, gender-role attitudes; MFRQ, male–female relations questionnaire; PAQ, personal attributes questionnaire

Introduction Unethical decision-making and behavior within organizations have received increasing attention over the past ten years. Some of the most recent examples of questionable business ethics include corporate scandals surrounding Bristol-Myers, Enron, Tyco International, WorldCom, Xerox, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Martha Stewart and ImClone Systems, Halliburton (Callahan, 2004; France, 2004; Gimbel and Naughton, 2004; Weiss, 1997; www.forbes.com/2002/07/25/ accountingtracker.html; Young, 2003). Convincing evidence also suggests that similar questionable behavior is occurring within all levels of the education system. In a 2002 survey, nearly 40% of high school students admitted they were willing to lie or cheat to get into college. Once these students get into college, they are 30–35% more likely to engage in serious cheating compared to college students in the 1960s (McCabe et al., 2001). Business students are among those with the worst attitudes toward cheating, and are most likely to bring their negligent ethics into their professional lives (Nonis and Owens Swift, 2001; Wajda-Johnson et al., 2001). In response to these and other high profile situations, the decision-making process, and perceptions of what is ethical and unethical within the business community, have become a serious concern and focus for the media, business schools, government,

A. Catherine McCabe is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Sawyer School of Management, Suffolk University. Her research interests include business ethics, services marketing, quality of life, sports marketing and gender issues in marketing. Rhea Ingram is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the D. Abbott Turner College of Business, Columbus State University. Her research interests include ethics, networks, and instructional issues. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Business Research and several conference proceedings. Mary Conway Dato-on is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Northern Kentucky University. Her research interests include cross-cultural consumer behavior, international marketing, as well the influence of gender and ethics on marketing decision-making. Her research appears in the Journal of Managerial Issues, Journal of Psychology & Marketing, Journal of Business to Business Marketing and various AMA, SMA. and AMS conference proceedings.

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A. Catherine McCabe et al. variable, has often been used...
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