Although ethics instruction has become an accepted part of the business school curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, some scholars have questioned its effectiveness, and research results have been mixed. However, studies yield interesting results regarding certain factors that influence the ethicality of business students and may impact the effectiveness of business ethics instruction. One of these factors is gender. Using personal and business ethics scenarios, we examine the main and interactive effects of gender and business ethics education on moral judgment. We then analyze the relationships between gender and business ethics education on personal ethical perspectives. Our results indicate that women are generally more inclined to act ethically than men, but paradoxically women who have had business ethics instruction are less likely to respond ethically to business situations. In addition, men may be more responsive to business ethics education than women. Finally, women’s personal ethical orientations may become more relativistic after taking a business ethics class.
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Appendix: Measure of Personal Ethical Perspectives
Appendix: Measure of Personal Ethical Perspectives
Idealism Question Items
A person should make certain that their actions never intentionally harm another even to a small degree.
Risks to another should never be tolerated, irrespective of how small the risks might be.
The existence of potential harm to others is always wrong, irrespective of the benefits to be gained.
One should never psychologically or physically harm another person.
One should not perform an action, which might in any way threaten the dignity and welfare of another individual.
The dignity and welfare of people should be the most important concern in any society.
It is never necessary to sacrifice the welfare of others.
Relativism Question Items
Moral standards should be seen as being individualistic; what one person considers to be moral may be judged to be immoral by another person.
Questions of what is ethical for everyone can never be resolved, since what is moral or immoral is up to the individual.
Moral standards are simply personal rules which indicate how a person should behave and are not to be applied in making judgments of others.
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Wang, L.C., Calvano, L. Is Business Ethics Education Effective? An Analysis of Gender, Personal Ethical Perspectives, and Moral Judgment. J Bus Ethics 126, 591–602 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1973-y