Gendered Ethics


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Gendered Ethics

  1. 1. By Tamara Davis
  2. 2.  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 standards?  Gender differences and inequality between men and women have rendered a gendered society, it seems plausible that ethics of men and women are gendered too.  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.
  3. 3.  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 (economic) decisions.  Research Design ◦ 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).
  4. 4.  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., 2002). My thoughts… 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…?
  5. 5.  Ethical perspective can be categorized into five categories of egoism, fairness or justice, common good, utilitarianism and deontology (management guru, 2009).  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).
  6. 6.  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 perspective.
  7. 7.  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).
  8. 8.  Common Good: The common good perspective follows a standard not of our own expectations but of expectations of others (management guru, 2009).  Deontology (virtue): Deontology focuses on the idealized notion of what a better world ought to be (management guru, 2009).
  9. 9.  Fairness/ Justice: This perspective focuses on fairness and equality among members in a group unless an action can be morally justifiable (Lukoskie, 2009).  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).
  10. 10.  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.
  11. 11.  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 utilitarian.
  12. 12.  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 30-35.  The survey was given with oral and written instructions individually. Instructions both oral and written were identical in nature and content to each participant.
  13. 13.  The Bem Sex Role Inventory assessment developed by Sandra Lipsitz Bem was the method used to determine the gender sex role identity of the individual.  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.
  14. 14.  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 ethic foundation.
  15. 15.  The results of the BSRI assessment revealed 50% of the participants scored feminine, 30% scored masculine and 20% scored androgynous.
  16. 16.  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 masculine perspectives.
  17. 17.  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 female.  The one male that scored feminine did choose a feminine perspective.  The androgynous scores were a male and female, but both favored the masculine ethic perspective.
  18. 18.  This experiment was only meant to get an inclination of a relationship between gender identity and ethical perspective.  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.
  19. 19.  Overall, I feel the experiment supported the conclusions of gender difference in ethical decision-making.  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.
  20. 20.  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.
  21. 21. 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 society.
  22. 22. Andre, C. & Velasquez, M. (2008). Men and women; justice and compassion. Santa Clara University. Retrieved August 16, 2009 from 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 ectives.htm Management Guru. (2009). Personal and business ethics. Retrieved August 16, 2009 from GOISM