Who Is Willing to Sacrifice Ethical Values for Money and Social Status? Gender Differences in Reactions to Ethical Compromises
Jessica Kennedy & Laura Kray
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming
Abstract: Women select into business school at a lower rate than men and are underrepresented in high-ranking positions in business organizations. We examined gender differences in reactions to ethical compromises as one possible explanation for these disparities. In Study 1, when reading decisions that compromised ethical values for social status and monetary gains, women reported feeling more moral outrage and perceived less business sense in the decisions than men. In Study 2, we established a causal relationship between aversion to ethical compromises and disinterest in business careers by manipulating the presence of ethical compromises in job descriptions. As hypothesized, an interaction between gender and presence of ethical compromises emerged. Only when jobs involved making ethical compromises did women report less interest in the jobs than men. Women’s moral reservations mediated these effects. In Study 3, we found that women implicitly associated business with immorality more than men did.