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The issue of gender equality in organizations is associated with human values, ethics, and behavior. Countless studies have pointed out the fact that the unethical practice of gender discrimination is severely embedded in the workplace. A recurring concern of denying the very basic right to earn a living without fear is a total abrasion of ethical behavior. Ethics are the moral principles by which people live in society and conduct their activities. They are based on well-grounded standards of right and wrong that dictate what people ought to do, usually in terms of right and wrong, moral obligations, benefits to the society, fairness, or specific virtues (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, et al, 2010).
There are several branches of ethical studies that address the issue of gender inequality and unethical behavior. The deontology theory by Kant, Virtue ethics advocated by ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, and Consequentialist or Classic Utilitarian theory preached by John Mill and Jeremy Benthem (Sarmast, 2019). This paper would focus on the ethical concern of gender inequality under the light of the ethical theories, what causes it, the inequalities it perpetuates, and what steps can be taken to counter this.
It must also be noted that while gender inequality is not something only women have to deal with but the focus of this paper is on women because they are more often targets and discrimination is more psychologically damaging for women than for men (Stamarski, Hing 2015) See Exhibit 1.
Even though women have, time and again, proved their mettle, they still are treated less favorably and systematically paid lesser than the male employees in a similar position.
The multiple forms of gender inequalities such as wage inequality, lack of women in leadership, the glass ceiling phenomenon, sexual harassment et cetera breach upon the fundamental issues of equality even today. Across the world, women are paid 82 cents to every dollar that a man earns” (Coleman, 2012, para. 2). As per Schieder & Gould, experimental evidence confirms that people in general still discriminated against women in the workplace, especially more if they were to venture into traditionally male-dominated areas of work (2016, para. 5).
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized that the realization of equal pay is precedent to the achievement of justice in the world (United Nation, 1948). Those who do equal jobs should be paid equally, given equal opportunities, and benefits and there shouldn’t be any more complication to it than that. All employees regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity have equal rights to the safe workplace environment and treatment (Holmes, 2019) as shown in Exhibit 2.
Gender inequality is a type of sex discrimination which results when an employee is treated disadvantageously because of their gender. Women are acutely aware of the fact that the employers are likely to view their demands, albeit valid and well-deserved, vis a vis. the demands of their male counterparts, under unfavorable light. First reason for this gender inequity is the underlined assumptions and faulty stereotyping about genders that corrupt our logical reasoning (Sarmast, 2019). Conventionally, the white-colored jobs were primarily held by men and so there have always been more male job applicants and consequently, the probability of them ruling the job market is way higher. They have easy and more open access to mentorship, their seniors vouch for them and more often not, create vacancies for them. Second, women lack focus on developing and establishing their independence in social life and their relationships with men (Nash, 2011, para. 11). A chief philosopher of the woman’s rights, Stanton believed the women need to take the charge in their hands and work relentlessly towards fighting for equality (para 17). Third, and most importantly, inadequate cultural change in organizations to promote genuine gender equality.
The deontological theory of ethical behavior requires people to be doing the right things consistently because it is the only way of doing things right. This theory motivates people to be intrinsically moral and practice gender equality in all spheres of life regardless of the situation (Sarmast, 2019). Going by the same principle, the organizations are required to champion ethical behavior by encouraging righteous behavior as the norm.
The consequentialist theory says that you should do certain things because those actions produce good consequences (Sarmast, 2019). Global movements such as the MeToo and TimesUp campaigns have brought to light the long-standing ethical issues in the corporate world based on gender dissonance and its impact (Seales, 2018). Gender discrimination is not only unethical but also immoral as it has cascading effects on everyone around. Holmes observed that denying a person of a wage that is rightfully theirs kills the motivation to work, and can have a direct impact on health, happiness, and productivity (2019). Furthermore, it impacts their families and results in poor corporate culture and overall productivity of the company and the world on the whole.
Business ethics in the simplest terms are the virtue ethics applied to business organizations and behavior (Velasques, 1998 p.14 ). Thus, the solution to the issues lies in enabling organizational culture towards equality and involving all individuals who are part of it to display virtues such as honesty, integrity, and humility (Holmes, 2019). Organizational culture is defined as the shared set of values, beliefs, language, practices and hidden assumptions that members of an organization have in common (Fugate, 2018) and that govern the way they think about and act on problems and opportunities (Hofstede 2011). The culture should share beliefs encouraging virtuous behavior towards gender and social equality as a basic value of the organization (Hartmann 2018). Companies need to have a robust framework of policies and a strong culture to counter and guide through any potential discrimination against women, including unconscious bias (Sarmast, 2019) at all levels if they want world equality.
Whilst there are undeniable testimonies of gender discriminations with workplace often referred to as an inhospitable place for women (Berg, 2015), the world of business is slowly gearing towards forming partnerships between the genders based on collaboration and cooperation. Organizations are responsible for ensuring and encouraging individuals to behave in a virtuous manner. The work culture should include non-discriminatory treatment across levels while giving due credit to women for all the advancements made in the workplace that are owed to them. In the end, gender equality boils down to decent human behavior practiced by everyone at the workplace.
Major global corporations have become vocally supportive of pay parity, equal opportunities, fair employment, and gender parity. For instance, to close the pay gap, PriceWaterhouseCoopers launched a training course on gender disparity and made it available online to all employees (Fisher, 2011, para. 15). Starbucks made a swift shift towards equal opportunities and extended it globally and Google pledged ‘equal pay for equal work’ for all its employees (Tarr, 2018, para. 6). These influential organizations are leading the world by setting the example of celebrating gender equality.
The issue of gender equality is associated with human values and the socially constructed process of developing values in human beings; hence, a concerted effort is needed from the governments, organizations, and individuals to provide women with the security and hope for gender equality at work. People act based on their understanding of morality and ethical obligation involves treating everyone equally, regardless of gender, race, economic status et cetera. The various theories prove that gender equality is not only a moral obligation that one person owes to another but also a foundation on which a strong and fair world will be built upon. Studies show that where there is greater workplace equality there is higher national economic growth, increased efficiency, stronger reputation, inflex of highly qualified candidates for jobs, better overall organizational performance in corporations, and increased world prosperity (UN Women Website, 2019). Therefore, gender equality is not just about economic empowerment, it is also a moral imperative; it is about fairness and equality and is a key factor in happiness across the world.
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