Lean in to what?
Women are underrepresented in businesses like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, especially in the upper management. Why is that?
Many women never go into finance in the first place, and of course some of them do go in but leave. Why are they leaving, though? Is it because they don’t like success? Or they don’t like money? Are they forgetting to lean in sufficiently?
Here’s another possibility, which I dig. They’re less willing to sacrifice their ethics than their male colleagues for the sake of money and business success.
Last Friday I read this paper entitled Who Is Willing to Sacrifice Ethical Values for Money and Social Status? Gender Differences in Reactions to Ethical Compromises and written by Jessica A. Kennedy and Laura J. Kray. It offers ethical distaste problems as at least one contributing reason we don’t see as many women as we might otherwise.
Please read the paper for details, I’m only giving a very brief overview without figures of statistical significance. They have three experiments.
First they saw who were interested in jobs that had major ethical compromises. Turns out that women were way less interested than men.
Second, to check whether that was because of the ethical compromises or because of the “job” part, they had different kinds of job descriptions and found that, in the presence of a culture of good ethics, women were just as interested in a job as men.
Third, they checked on the existing assumptions about the connection between ethics and various kinds of jobs, like the law, medicine, and “business”. Turns out woman associate compromised ethics with business but less so with law and medicine.
Conclusion: we can attribute some of the lack of women in business to a combination of assumed and real ethical compromises.
First, I love that this paper was written by two women. Maybe that’s what it took for such an common sense idea to be tested.
Secondly, I think this paper should be kept in mind when we read things about how companies that are diverse are more successful. It’s probably because they are nice places to be that women and others are there, which in turn makes them more successful. It also explains why, when companies set out to be diverse, they often have so much trouble. They want to achieve diversity without changing their underlying culture.
Thirdly, I’m going to have to admit that men are under enormous pressure to succeed at all costs, which could explain why they’re more willing to become ethically compromised to be successful. That says something about our crazy expectations of men in this culture which I think we need to address. I say that as a mother of three sons.
Finally, whenever I hear someone talking about “leaning in” from now on, I will ask them, “lean in to what?”.