When it comes to business ethics, it’s no big surprise that ascending to and being in positions of power has the potential to corrupt behavior. But does power tend to corrupt men more than women?
A 2013 study done by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School suggests that women are less willing than men to sacrifice ethical values for money and social status, and that women associate business with immorality more strongly than men.
As part of the study, researchers created job descriptions that included details such as job responsibilities and salary, and asked study participants how interested they were in the jobs. Some of the made-up job descriptions included an ethical factor: there was a conflict between acting ethically and doing well at the job, and employees were expected to prioritize money and social status.
Only under the condition where ethics came into play did women, on average, show less interest in the job than their male counterparts. According to the study’s lead researcher Jessica Kennedy, women were more likely to admit they would struggle with sacrificing their values to do the things they would be asked to do while men seem more willing to sacrifice their ethical values in exchange for money or success on the job.
Prior to the study, Kennedy said little research had been done on the subject and she had not heard anyone explicitly claim that women value ethics more than men – and are less inclined to sell out those values in order to win business, earn promotions, get or stay ahead of workplace rivals, curry favor with superiors or otherwise advance their own careers.
“We propose that women, more than men, find ethical compromises unacceptable,” said Kennedy and fellow researcher Laura J. Kray of the University of California at Berkeley, in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.