Do The Right Thing

Battle of the Sexes

Do women have higher ethical standards than men? In general, yes. That's according to two University of Alabama business professors whose complex analysis of past research revealed some interesting differences in the ways men and women perceive unethical behavior.

Dr. Deborah Crown, associate professor of management, and Dr. George R. Franke, associate professor of marketing, found that on average, men and women go into the work force after college with different perceptions about ethics.

Differences are most pronounced among college students and gradually decrease with work experience until, after being in the work force for about 21 years, the differences practically disappear.

Other findings:

  • Women were more likely to perceive rule-breaking as unethical. However, men were no more likely to break rules than women were.
  • Men were more likely to recognize ethical problems involving money than those involving nonmonetary issues.
  • Ethical standards rise over time: "Junior workers may cross an ethical line without even realizing it," says Franke. "With work experience comes a better understanding of what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior."
  • There's more agreement than disagreement: Overall, the ethical perceptions of men and women overlapped by 84 percent.
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