Does Gender Raise the Ethical Bar? Exploring the Punishment of Ethical Violations at Work

36 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2016  

Jessica A. Kennedy

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

The Wharton School - The University of Pennsylvania

Nicole M. Stephens

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Date Written: April 25, 2016

Abstract

We investigate whether women are targets of more severe punishment than men following ethical violations at work. Using an experimental design, Study 1 finds evidence that ethical behavior is more strongly prescribed for women than for men, even when they occupy an identical professional role. Study 2 manipulates the gender of a manager in a hypothetical scenario and finds that women are punished more severely than men for ethical violations at work. It also tests the scope of our theory by asking whether women are punished more for errors in general, or only for intentional ethical violations. Using field data, Study 3 examines how severely attorneys are punished for violating the American Bar Association’s ethical rules. Female attorneys are punished more severely than male attorneys, after accounting for a variety of factors. Greater representation of women among decision-makers diminishes the gender disparity in punishment. Our research documents a new prescriptive stereotype faced by women and helps to explain the persistence of gender disparities in organizations. It highlights punishment severity as a novel mechanism by which institutions may derail women’s careers more than men’s.

Keywords: Gender, Ethical Violations, Punishment, Stereotypes

Suggested Citation

Kennedy, Jessica A. and McDonnell, Mary-Hunter and Stephens, Nicole M., Does Gender Raise the Ethical Bar? Exploring the Punishment of Ethical Violations at Work (April 25, 2016). Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Research Paper No. 2770012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2770012

Jessica Alynn Kennedy (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior ( email )

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

The Wharton School - The University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Nicole M. Stephens

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
223
Rank
110,284
Abstract Views
822