Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 73–85 | Cite as

Ethics-Related Responses to Specific Situation Vignettes: Evidence of Gender-Based Differences and Occupational Socialization

  • Aileen Smith
  • Violet Rogers


This research presents findings from a study of gender-based differences in an ethical decision situation. The study focuses on gender as it relates to situational factors and accounting experience. The primary element of interest is how the gender of the actor (the person described in each vignette) influences the evaluation/assessment of the ethical/unethical decisions. While previous research has provided evidence of ethical differences relating to the gender of the responding subjects, limited evidence has been presented relating to situational issues that may influence assessments of ethical decisions.

This research uses four accounting environment vignettes to survey the responses of accountants and accounting students to the ethical/unethical nature of the actions that are taken. In addition, how likely the accountants believe they are to take the same actions is also surveyed. The subjects are a representative sample of practicing accountants in the U.S. and senior/graduate accounting majors at a state university in the southwestern United States.

The survey finds that occupational socialization is occurring up to a point. When specific rules are violated or tested, males and females behave similarly, thus illustrating that they have learned from their environment – occupational socialization. Alternatively, when gray areas are involved, they either tend to behave differently or assess the behavior of others differently, pointing to evidence of gender socialization.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Akaah, I. P.: 1989, ‘Differences in Research Ethics Judgments between Male and Female Marketing Professionals’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, pp. 375–381.Google Scholar
  2. Ameen, E. C., D. M. Guffy and J. J. McMillan: 1996, ‘Gender Differences in Determining the Ethical Sensitivity of Future Accounting Professionals’, Journal of Business Ethics 15(5), pp. 591–597.Google Scholar
  3. Arlow, P.: 1991, ‘Personal Characteristics in College Students' Evaluations of Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility’, Journal of Business Ethics 10, pp. 63–69.Google Scholar
  4. Barnett, J. H. and M. J. Karson: 1989, ‘Managers, Values, and Executive Decisions: An Exploration of the Role of Gender, Career Stage, Organizational Level, Function, and the Importance of Ethics, Relationships and Results in Managerial Decision-Making’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, pp. 747–771.Google Scholar
  5. Betz, M., L. O'Connell and J. M. Shepard: 1989, ‘Gender Differences in Proclivity for Unethical Behavior’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, pp. 321–324.Google Scholar
  6. Borkowski, S. C. and Y. J. Ugras: 1992, ‘The Ethical Attitudes of Students as a Function of Age, Sex, and Experience’, Journal of Business Ethics 11, pp. 961–979.Google Scholar
  7. Chusmir, L. H., C. S. Koberg and J. Mills: 1989, ‘Male-Female Differences in the Association of Managerial Style and Personal Values’, The Journal of Social Psychology 129(1), pp. 65–78.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, J. and P. Cohen: 1983, Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences(Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, Hillsdale, NJ).Google Scholar
  9. DeZoort, F. T. and A. T. Lord: 1993, ‘An Investigation of Obedience Pressure Effects on Auditors' Judgments’ (working paper), University of Alabama.Google Scholar
  10. Emerson's Directory of Leading Accounting Firms Worldwide: 1996 (The Emerson Company, Bellevue, WA).Google Scholar
  11. Everett, L., D. Thorne and C. Danehower: 1996, ‘Cognitive Moral Development and Attitudes Toward Women Executives’, Journal of Business Ethics 15, pp. 1227–1235.Google Scholar
  12. Flory, S. M., T. J. Phillips, Jr., R. E. Reidenbach and D. P. Robin: 1992, ‘A Multidimensional Analysis of Selected Ethical Issues in Accounting’, The Accounting Review 67(2), pp. 284–302.Google Scholar
  13. Fogarty, T. J.: 1995, ‘Accounting Ethics: A Brief Examination of Neglected Sociological Dimensions’, Journal of Business Ethics 14, pp. 103–115.Google Scholar
  14. Gilligan, C.: 1982, In a Different Voice(Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA).Google Scholar
  15. Gomez-Mejia, L. R.: 1983, ‘Sex Differences During Occupational Socialization’, Academy of Management Journal 26(3), pp. 492–499.Google Scholar
  16. Grant, J.: 1988, ‘Women as Managers: What They Can Offer to Organizations’, Organizational Dynamics 16, pp. 56–63.Google Scholar
  17. Hagerty, W. H. and H. P. Sims: 1978, ‘Some Determinants of Unethical Decision Behavior: An Experiment’, Journal of Applied Psychology 63, pp. 451–457.Google Scholar
  18. Harris, J. R.: 1990, ‘Ethical Values of Individuals at Different Levels in the Organizational Hierarchy of a Single Firm’, Journal of Business Ethics 9, pp. 741–750.Google Scholar
  19. Harris, J. R. and C. D. Sutton: 1995, ‘Unravelling the Ethical Decision-Making Process: Clues from an Empirical Study Comparing Fortune 1000 Executives and MBA Students’, Journal of Business Ethics 14, pp. 805–817.Google Scholar
  20. Heilman, M. E., C. J. Block, F. F. Martell and M. C. Simon: 1989, ‘Has Anything Changed? Current Characteristics of Men, Women, and Managers’, Journal of Applied Psychology 74, pp. 935–942.Google Scholar
  21. Javidan, M., B. Bemmels, K. S. Devine and A. Dastmalchian: 1995, ‘Superior and Subordinate Gender and the Acceptance of Superiors as Role Models’, Human Relations 48(11), pp. 1271–1284.Google Scholar
  22. Jones, G. E. and M. J. Kavanaugh: 1996, ‘An Experimental Examination of the Effect of Individual and Situational Factors on Ethical Behavioral Intentions in the Workplace’, Journal of Business Ethics 15, pp. 511–523.Google Scholar
  23. Jones, W. A., Jr.: 1990, ‘Student Views of “Ethical” 84 Aileen Smith and Violet Rogers Issues: A Situational Analysis’, Journal of Business Ethics 9, pp. 201–205.Google Scholar
  24. Kaldenberg, D. O., B. W. Becker and A. Zvonkovic: 1995, ‘Work and Commitment Among Young Professionals: A Study of Male and Female Dentists’, Human Relations 48, pp. 1355–1377.Google Scholar
  25. Kanter, R. M.: 1977, Men and Women of the Corporation(Basic Books, Inc., New York).Google Scholar
  26. Kohut, G. F. and S. E. Corriher: 1994, ‘The Relationship of Age, Gender, Experience and Awareness of Written Ethics Policies to Business Decision Making’, Sam Advanced Management Journal 59, pp. 32–39.Google Scholar
  27. Konovsky, M. A. and F. Jaster: 1989, ‘ “Blaming the Victim” and Other Ways Business Men and Women Account for Questionable Behavior’, Journal of Business Ethics 15, pp. 391–398.Google Scholar
  28. Lane, J. C.: 1995, ‘Ethics of Business Students: Some Marketing Perspectives’, Journal of Business Ethics 14(7), pp. 571–580.Google Scholar
  29. Lewin, K.: 1936, Principiles of Typological Psychology (McGraw-Hall, New York).Google Scholar
  30. Leftkowitz, J.: 1994, ‘Sex-Related Differences in Job Attitudes and Dispositional Variables: Now You See Them,...’, Academy of Management Journal 37(2), pp. 323–349.Google Scholar
  31. Loden, M.: 1985, Feminine Leadership(Times Books, New York).Google Scholar
  32. Malinowski, C. and K. A. Berger: 1996, ‘Undergraduate Student Attitudes about Hypothetical Marketing Dilemmas’, Journal of Business Ethics 15, pp. 525–535.Google Scholar
  33. Mason, S. E. and P. E. Mudrack: 1996, ‘Gender and Ethical Orientation: A Test of Gender and Occupational Socialization Theories’, Journal of Business Ethics 15(6), pp. 599–604.Google Scholar
  34. McCuddy, M. K. and B. L. Peery: 1996, ‘Selected Individual Differences and Collegians' Ethical Beliefs’, Journal of Business Ethics 15, pp. 261–272.Google Scholar
  35. McNichols, C. W. and T. W. Zimmerer: 1985, ‘Situational Ethics: An Empirical Study of Differentiators of Student Attitudes’, Journal of Business Ethics 4, pp. 175–180.Google Scholar
  36. Miesing, P. and J. F. Breble: 1985, ‘A Comparison of Five Business Philosophies’, Journal of Business Ethics 4, pp. 465–476.Google Scholar
  37. Million Dollar Directory: 1996 (Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., Bethlehem, PA).Google Scholar
  38. Morrison, A. M., R. P. White, E. V. Velsor and the Center for Creative Leadership: 1992, Breaking the Glass Ceiling(Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, New York).Google Scholar
  39. Mudrack, P. E.: 1993, ‘An Investigation into the Acceptability of Workplace Behaviors of a Dubious Ethical Nature’, Journal of Business Ethics 12, pp. 517–524.Google Scholar
  40. Powell, G. N.: 1990, ‘One More Time: Do Female and Male Managers Differ?’, Academy of Management Executive 4(3), pp. 68–75.Google Scholar
  41. Ruegger, D. and E. W. King: 1992, ‘A Study of the Effect of Age and Gender Upon Student Business Ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics 11, pp. 179–186.Google Scholar
  42. Schein, B. A.: 1973, ‘The Relationship between Sex Role Stereotypes and Requisite Management Characteristics’, Journal of Applied Psychology 57, pp. 95–100.Google Scholar
  43. Schein, B. A.: 1975, ‘The Relationship between Sex Role Stereotypes and Requisite Management Characteristics among Female Managers’, Journal of Applied Psychology 60, pp. 340–344.Google Scholar
  44. Schminke, M.: 1997, ‘Gender Differences in Ethical Frameworks and Evaluation of Others' Choices in Ethical Dilemmas’, Journal of Business Ethics 16(1), pp. 55–65.Google Scholar
  45. Sikula, A., Sr. and A. D. Costa: 1994, ‘Are Women More Ethical Then Men?’, Journal of Business Ethics 13, pp. 859–871.Google Scholar
  46. Smith, A., J. D. Coates and D. R. Deis: 1999, ‘Are Ethical Responses Linked to Locus of Control?’, Teaching Business Ethics 2(3), pp. 249–260.Google Scholar
  47. Stanga K. G. and R. A. Turpen: 1991, ‘Ethical Judgments on Selected Accounting Issues: An Empirical Study’, Journal of Business Ethics 10, pp. 739–747.Google Scholar
  48. Stevens, G. E.: 1984, ‘Business Ethics and Social Responsibility: The Responses of Present and Future Managers’, Akron Business and Economic Review(Fall), pp. 6–11.Google Scholar
  49. Thoma, S. J.: 1996, ‘Estimating Gender Differences in the Comprehension and Preference of Moral Issues’, Developmental Review 6, pp. 165–180.Google Scholar
  50. Trevino, L. K.: 1986, ‘Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: A Person-Situation Interactionist Model’, Academy of Management Review 11, pp. 601–617.Google Scholar
  51. Tyson, T.: 1990, ‘Believing that Everyone Else is Less Ethical: Implications for Work Behavior and Ethics Instruction’, Journal of Business Ethics 9, pp. 715–721.Google Scholar
  52. Tyson, T.: 1992, ‘Does Believing that Everyone Else is Less Ethical Have an Impact on Work Behavior?’, Journal of Business Ethics 11, pp. 707–717.Google Scholar
  53. White, T. I.: 1992, ‘Business, Ethics, and Carol Gilligan's “Two Voices”’, Business Ethics Quarterly 2(1), pp. 51–61.Google Scholar
  54. White, C. S. and R. S. Dooley: 1993, ‘Ethical or Practical: An Empirical Study of Students' Choices in Simulated Business Scenarios’, Journal of Business Ethics 12, pp. 643–651.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aileen Smith
    • 1
  • Violet Rogers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AccountingStephen F. Austin UniversityNacogdochesU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations