Men tend to have more lenient ethical standards than women which could affect ‘the future of corporate social responsibility’, a study through UC Berkeley-Hass School of Business has found.

Laura Kray, Professor of Business at UC Berkeley-Hass, told the Guardian that men and women apply morality in different ways within a business context. Men tend to see ethical principles egocentrically and see these decisions as “just business”, whereas women often see ethical principles as “beyond business” and outside of ego.

In the study conducted with Michael Haselhuhn, Kray found that:

“Men’s lower ethical standards in business negotiations are driven in part by their desire to prove their masculinity (if negotiations are a “man’s game”, then the implication is that men who are not at the top of the pecking order are somehow less manly). The way to counter such outdated thinking, she suggests, would be to help men to “embrace their feminine side, to become more balanced and whole in their business approach, and therefore more secure in themselves”

A large part of the ethics in business issue appears to be the ‘traditional rule of business’ taught to business school students, where maximising shareholder value at all costs is the ultimate goal. Jill Bamburg, co-founder of Bainbridge Graduate Institute, emphasises the need to teach ethical principles in business schools that will benefit students of both sexes.

Bamburg’s work calls for a shift in focus where “maximising the fulfilment of purpose” becomes the norm over simply maximising shareholder profits.

The future of business with purpose appears to lie in better supporting women in their natural tendencies to make ethical decisions and in helping men get more comfortable with ‘relational business thinking’.

The UC Berkeley-Hass  study also found evidence that suggests people become more ethical as they age.

“By encouraging a broader, relational perspective, age and experience usually lead people to feel more comfortable in their own skin and therefore less prone to ethical biases,” Professor Kray said.

Photo by Jon Seidman