In the beginning, it was straight, binary, and … quite dull.
Males and females are identified by their anatomy. In science, whether a fetus will turn out to be a boy or a girl is determined by the sex chromosomes. XX means it’s a girl, and XY means it’s a boy.
Males and females are created differently. There are set social roles that they play. And societal expectations influence their behaviors. This is probably why, in the study of ethical behaviors, gender is a major factor.
Ethics researchers have identified gender as an individual factor that impacts moral judgment. Early research has shown that, ethically, women behave differently than men do. Men are most likely to make ethical decisions based on right or wrong, in the context of justice. In contrast, women are more likely to consider situational contexts, considering a spectrum of factors.
Numerous studies affirm these differences. Men tend to apply ethical standards “egocentrically” and to see these decisions as “just business.” As a rule, it is crucial for men that they are not perceived as weak. At times, an ethical decision internally affirms their sense of manhood. In some cases, however, their desire to prove their masculinity could drive them to lower their ethical standards.
On the other hand, women see ethical decisions as “beyond business.” They decide on the basis of care, with the hope that the resulting change can benefit everybody.
This probably explains why men and women respond to business ethics education differently. In a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics, results seem to confirm that women are more generally inclined to act ethically than men. But compared to men, women who have had business ethics education are less likely to respond ethically to business situations. Moreover, women’s personal ethics tend to become relativistic after taking a business ethics class.
In January 2017, the National Geographic magazine devoted its entire issue on gender revolution. It suggests that rethinking gender is now an imperative. As a growing number of the population is “freed from the binary of boy or girl, gender identity is a shifting landscape.”
In 2014, users of Facebook can select from at least 58 “custom” gender options. As of this writing, there are reports that 21 more options have been added to the list.
NatGeo cited a recent survey of millennials between ages 18-24. Half of them think that “gender is a spectrum.” A significant number of them consider themselves as non-binary. In 2012, a poll was taken on 10,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens between ages 13 and 17. Results revealed that a substantial sample categorized themselves as “genderfluid,” “androgynous,” or some terms other than male or female.
We are all burdened with label applied by others. The most influential is the one we got when we were born, i.e., boy or girl. Yet, the magazine’s editor-in-chief opines, we are surrounded by “evolving notions about what it means to be a woman or a man and the meaning of transgender, cisgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, agender, or any of the more than 50 terms Facebook offers users for their profiles.”
In recent years, gender has been evolving into a blend of several elements. These include “chromosomes (Xs and Ys), anatomy (internal sex organs and external genitals), hormones (relative levels of testosterones and estrogen), psychology (self-defined gender identity), and culture (socially defined sexual behaviors).”
In the end, the effects on business behavior could be non-conforming, queer, and… definitely exciting.
Real Carpio So lectures on strategy and human resource management at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is also an entrepreneur and a management consultant. He welcomes comments at email@example.com.
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