The question of ethics is one of the most compelling and confusing global issues of the turn of the century in all sectors, private and public. In the area of business ethics in particular, over the past decade there has been an increase in incidents of fraud globally. Misconduct in many organizations is often seen as a consequence of weak governance systems where checks and balances are lacking.
According to PWC’s 2019 Global Fraud Report, asset misappropriation, bribery and corruption are the biggest threats to sustainability. Employee malfeasance accounts for nearly 40% of all corporate crimes and misconduct.
The big question is, why do people behave so amorally?
Generally, the belief is that individuals are uniquely predisposed, influenced, or circumscribed to act dishonorably because of their upbringing, personal interests, and experiences. Whether his knowledge of right or wrong, right or wrong comes from teachings and exposure at an early age. It emanates both from the inner circle of influence of parents, relatives and peers, as well as from respect for long-standing and universally accepted norms.
However, emphasis has also been placed on gender differences as a subset of business ethics. Many researchers have found variations between men and women in their ability to understand and address ethical business considerations. Overall, these studies argue that women tend to behave more ethically.
American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg claims that men and women react differently to the same set of conditions. Scholar Galbraith determines that men and women use similar decision rules regardless of ethical situations. There is a study that reflects a neuroscientific approach to determining the difference between men and women in business ethics. This new discovery in neuroscience determines that the difference is due to variation in brain structures and chemistry between men and women. Using the two disciplines of behavior or neuroscience, men are said to be more transactional, individualistic, and concerned with justice and fairness, while women are said to be transformational, collective, and concerned with compassion and fairness.
These differences have significant implications for an organization’s reputation, profitability and overall sustainability. These conclusions all support that women have a more ethical behavior and accredit the proposals of several European countries to initiate the proposal of quotas of women in the boards of directors. According to another study, having more women on the board increases company value, financial performance, and ethical compliance.
Despite these studies, while 87% of global companies have at least one woman in leadership positions, only 29% of leadership positions are held by women. The issue of women’s governance and the impact on the ethical behavior of organizations is therefore highlighted. Having women in the highest positions is a positive proposition and should be on the conscience of every board or executive to be encouraged and supported.
How many of our Filipino organizations reflect a balanced gender distribution in leadership positions, including C-levels? Where are all the women? Perhaps it is high time for local Filipino companies to revisit this organizational profile and promote more women to the board and C-levels?
Karen Roa holds a Ph.D. Candidate in Leadership Studies at Ateneo de Manila University. Her interests lie in the study of women and ethics. She is also President of First Metro Asset Management, Inc. and a member of the Filipina CEO Circle.
Women Who Lead is an initiative of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN).
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