Ethics has been researched in relation to gender
and has brought questions such as whether women
are more ethical than men and vice versa.
Do women and men have different ethical
Gender differences and inequality between men
and women have rendered a gendered society, it
seems plausible that ethics of men and women are
The intention of this research project is to scratch
the surface of the correlation of gender and ethics
and experiment with scores on the BSRI assessment
in relation to ethical perspective.
Saundra H. Glover, Minnette A. Bumpus, Glynda F.
Sharp, George A. Munchus (2002) explored the
hypothesis that women will be more likely than
men to favor ethical decisions over unethical
◦ 367 undergraduate business major students; median age:
21; 59% male
◦ Completed assessment to measure values
◦ Completed decision exercises that were designed to reflect
realistic business situations (Glover et al, 2002).
The results of their assessments showed that even
though women's value orientations were similar to the
male respondents they consistently chose the ethical
choice whereas the male respondents appeared to relate
to the moral intensity of the situation (Glover et al.,
It is hard for me to envision a “correct” ethical choice
when perspective will play a big part. What is ethical for
one may not be ethical for another…so are men and
women geared towards different ethical perspectives…?
Ethical perspective can be categorized into five
categories of egoism, fairness or justice, common
good, utilitarianism and deontology (management
Ethics is the moral standard that a person uses to
determine "right" or "wrong" choices and the
"rightness" of the decision can only be measured
by knowing which ethic perspective is used
(management guru, 2009).
Harvard psychologist, Carol Gilligan, introduced
the theory that men and women are on different
but parallel paths of moral development and they
base their choices on different ethical criteria
(Andre & Velasquez, 2008).
Her theory is that men base their decisions on a
justice perspective and women on a care
For my experiment, I categorized each ethic
perspective as masculine and feminine based on
the male and female stereotypes of the
care/nurture and justice/rights.
The justice perspective has principles of justice,
equality, impartibility and rights whereas the care
perspective places the need to preserve
relationship and minimize hurt over justice and
rights (Andre & Velasquez, 2008, para.5).
Common Good: The common good perspective
follows a standard not of our own expectations but
of expectations of others (management guru,
Deontology (virtue): Deontology focuses on the
idealized notion of what a better world ought to be
(management guru, 2009).
Fairness/ Justice: This perspective focuses on
fairness and equality among members in a group
unless an action can be morally justifiable
Egoism/Rights: The basis of this perspective is the
view that all people are free and equal and should
enjoy the unrestrained liberty to pursue self-
interests (management guru, 2009).
Utilitarianism: focuses on the well-being of all
persons directly or indirectly affected by an action
or policy (Lukoskie, 2009).
I categorized utilitarianism as androgynous because
this perspective carried both aspects of a fairness
perspective and care perspective.
Using Dr. Bem's BSRI assessment to measure
gender role identity, subjects with masculine
scores will favor the masculine ethic
perspectives (fairness, rights) and subjects
with feminine scores will favor the feminine
ethic perspectives (common good, virtue)
while androgynous scores will favor
The sample consisted of 10 people who volunteered to
take a questionnaire that had two parts.
The first part was completing the BSRI assessment and
the second part was identifying and rating in order of
importance which ethic perspective they felt most
closely resembled their ethic foundation.
Participants were five females and five males, median
age is 44 with 60% of the sample falling between ages
The survey was given with oral and written instructions
individually. Instructions both oral and written were
identical in nature and content to each participant.
The Bem Sex Role Inventory assessment developed
by Sandra Lipsitz Bem was the method used to
determine the gender sex role identity of the
The participants' scores were rated masculine if
their masculine score was higher than their
feminine score; feminine if their feminine score
was higher than their masculine; androgynous if
both scores were above 4.9; and undifferentiated if
both scores were under 2. Scores were tallied by
adding masculine scores and dividing by 20 and
the same procedure for feminine scores.
Ethic perspectives used were rights, fairness,
common good, utilitarianism, and virtue.
Participants were asked to rate in order of
importance with 1 being most important and
5 being the least important regarding their
The results of the BSRI assessment revealed 50% of
the participants scored feminine, 30% scored
masculine and 20% scored androgynous.
The majority of the feminine scored participants did
choose the feminine ethic perspectives, while the
masculine scored participants varied between the two
and the androgynous fell completely into the
These results follow along the same theory that
gender difference plays a part in ethical perspectives.
This supports the 2002 study on gender differences
and that women may have different ethical standards
than men (Glover et al.).
In contrast, this experiment addresses that masculine
or feminine gender role identity may affect ethical
perspective regardless of one's biological sex. Half of
the participants scored feminine but only 4 were
The one male that scored feminine did choose a
The androgynous scores were a male and female, but
both favored the masculine ethic perspective.
This experiment was only meant to get an inclination
of a relationship between gender identity and ethical
A bigger sample would have been ideal with more
attention to the demographic of the subjects. The
sample was meant to be random, but all were within
the same community and culture.
It is also challenging to accurately address ethical
issues because a person may respond differently
when faced with a challenge directly versus looking at
it on paper.
Many factors can play a part in moral reasoning and
this experiment did not address any other factors
besides the gender identity role.
Overall, I feel the experiment supported the
conclusions of gender difference in ethical
I feel the results are not conclusive that gender
identity definitely plays a part in ethical
perspective, but reveals enough to further
investigate the relationship.
The experiment may have had more revealing
results if subjects were asked to rate based on
situational scenarios, which may have assisted in
a better understanding of which ethical
perspective they would favor.
I did find it interesting that regardless of biological
sex, the participants gendered identity for the most
part matched the corresponding gendered ethic.
This suggests that men and women's gender
identity may play a part in their ethic perceptions.
It would be interesting to test gender role identity
and ethic perspective across cultures to find any
similarities or differences.
In conclusion, I believe men and women approach
ethical decision-making differently. Based on the
Glover research and Dr. Gilligan's theory, gender
difference definitely influences ethic decision-
making. Ethic perspective is important because
the standards of "right" and "wrong" will change
with each individual. How people perceive
themselves may be an important factor in how
they make ethical decisions and it becomes
necessary to address cultural influences and how
society shapes ethical standards. Women and
men's approaches to ethics warrants more
investigation, but it also shows that gendered
ethics are just one more aspect of our gendered
Andre, C. & Velasquez, M. (2008). Men and women; justice and
compassion. Santa Clara University. Retrieved August 16, 2009
Glover, S. H., Bumpus, M. A., Sharp, G. F., & Munchus, G.A. (2002).
Gender differences in ethical decision making. Women in
Management Review, 17(5/6), 217-227. Retrieved August 16,
2009, from Proquest. (Document ID: 275070961).
Lukoskie, D. (n.d.). Different Ethical Perspectives. Santa Clara
University. Retrieved from August 16, 2009 from
Management Guru. (2009). Personal and business ethics. Retrieved
August 16, 2009 from