Sex Differences Through a Neuroscience Lens: Implications for Business Ethics

Abstract

Recent, groundbreaking work in neuroscience has illuminated sex differences that could have a profound impact on business organizations. Distinctions between the sexes that may have previously been presumed to be due to “nurture” may now also be demonstrably related to “nature.” Here, we report recent neuroscience findings related to males’ and females’ brain structures and brain chemistry, along with the results of recent neuroeconomic studies. We learn not only that male and female brains are structured differently, but also that different portions of their brains are used for the same tasks, often leading to identical conclusions. Neuroeconomic studies also demonstrate that the effects of hormones—most notably, oxytocin and testosterone—urge males and females to both think and behave differently in ethical situations. We suggest that examination of these new results could benefit six areas of business ethics research: trust, moral decision-making, organizational justice, moral development, the ethic of care, and female management styles. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for business practice, suggesting that it may be ethical to allow men and women to be treated differently in the workplace: such treatment may be advantageous not only for the workers’ firms, but also for the workers themselves.

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Correspondence to Lori Verstegen Ryan.

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Ryan, L.V. Sex Differences Through a Neuroscience Lens: Implications for Business Ethics. J Bus Ethics 144, 771–782 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3110-1

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Keywords

  • Neuroscience
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Brain
  • Gender
  • Trust
  • Moral decision-making