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Ethics and the gender equality dilemma for U.S. multinationals

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U.S. multinational enterprises must now follow the policies of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in their overseas operations, at least with respect to U.S. expatriate employees. Doing so in a culture which discourages gender equality in the workplace raises difficult issues, both practically and ethically. Vigorously importing U.S. attitudes toward gender-equality into a social culture such as Japan or Saudi Arabia may seem “ethnocentric,” a version of “ethical imperialism.” Yet adapting to host country norms risks a kind of “moral relativism.” This article supports the view that MNEs which promote workplace equality in a host country such as Japan, which is actively involved in the international economic and political community, is not “ethical imperialism” in any pejorative sense and is preferable to a moral relativism or social contract approach.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain rights — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

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Don Mayer teaches Legal Environment of Business at Oakland University School of Business Administration. He received his L.L.M. in International and Comparative Law. Professor Mayer's work has appeared in the American Business Law Journal, the Midwest Law Review, and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. An article entitled “Sovereign Immunities and Moral Community” appears in the October 1992 issue of theBusiness Ethics Quarterly.

Anita Cava teaches Business Law and Business Ethics at both the graduate and undergraduate level at the University of Miami's School of Business Administration. She received her B.A. with Distinction and her J.D., Professor Cava has published in the area of ethics in law reviews and business journals.

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Mayer, D., Cava, A. Ethics and the gender equality dilemma for U.S. multinationals. J Bus Ethics 12, 701–708 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00881384

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  • Host Country
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Gender Equality
  • Social Contract
  • Political Community