Ethical Dilemma Surrounding Gender Issues in Management Environment

Ethical dilemmas are common when making crucial decisions. Managerial decisions raise ethical issues making it necessary to have an understanding of the consequences of different alternatives during decisions making. Ethical dilemma in organizations refers to a situation where the decision maker is confronted by many viable solutions to a problem. Most of the dilemmas that occur emanate from the fact that organizations have many stakeholders with conflicting interests.  Some of the critical stakeholders in an organization include the employees, suppliers, owners, and customers. It is hard to make a decision that serves the interests of all stakeholders.  Handling gender-related issues are one of the contentious issues that raise ethical dilemma in the contemporary work environment.

Evidence shows that women are exposed to different forms of discrimination at the work place that is compromising the wellbeing of female employees. Large companies in the United States and other developed countries have been in the past sued due to failure to treat women and women at workplace equally.  For instance, Walmart, the world’s largest retail outlet, have been sued for discriminating female employees.  In specific, the company was sued for not providing equal promotion opportunities to female employment(Blau & Kahn, 2013). Failure to allow women to ascend the corporate ladder leads to male dominated top managements.

Managers are required to balance the interests of different stakeholders implying that implementing anti-gender discrimination policies can compromise the welfare of some stakeholders. Managers conduct an assessment of stakeholders’ interests when making decisions relating to gender discrimination that raises ethical concerns. Some decisions are made behind the scenes and therefore never emerge in the public. However, others capture the attention of the public through the mainstream and social media platforms. The regulatory framework in place can also influence the impacts of an ethical dilemma.  The government of the United Kingdom makes it compulsory for employers to report on a commitment to realizing gender equity at the workplace. It implies that managers must consider how the public reacts to the company’s reports. Such attention can have both negative and positive impacts on an organization. Apart from the public attention alternatives in an ethical dilemma have far-reaching internal impacts in an organization.

The main ethical dilemma surrounding gender issues is whether to treat male and female workers equally or retain the status quo where male workers enjoy more rights than female workers. There are different types of gender discrimination in the work environment. Pay, promotion, and hiring discrimination are common in the contemporary work environment. Women earn relatively less than their male counterparts. In the United States, female workers earn 78% of the earnings of male workers performing similar tasks. Female employees earn 82% of the earnings of male co-workers in the United Kingdom(Blau & Kahn, 2009).  Gender discrimination is rampant in the promotion since higher positions in an organization are associated with more responsibilities. It implies that persons occupying higher positions in an organization are required to spend more hours serving the employer. Maternal responsibilities compromise the availability of female workers that makes them unfit to occupy higher positions. As a result, organizational work suffers when there are many women in managerial positions(Blau & Kahn, 2009). Gender discrimination is also rampant in hiring. Organizations avoid hiring female employees at childbearing age since such workers have more maternal responsibilities than older women.  The law entitles women to a compulsory maternity leave that vary from six to twelve months. This entitlement makes employers avoid having a workforce that has many female employees. Choosing to treat women equally implies that policy interventions are made to ensure employees are treated equally regarding compensation, hiring, and promotion. Each of the two choices has pros and cons that necessitate a clear evaluation of the ramifications each alternative.

Giving women equal opportunities in the work environment has some advantage.  Gender equity motivates female employees since it makes them feel appreciated in their service to the employer. Motivation is one of the key responsibilities of a manager. It is the responsibility of a manager to create an environment that supports employee motivation(Karamessini & Ioakimoglou,2007). Gender discrimination makes female employees feel inferior thus reducing their productivity. Female employees are motivated to put more efforts when an extra effort is associated with an increase in pay without discrimination. Paying female employees lower than their male counterparts imply that their efforts are not appreciated. Equal promotion opportunities are also a source of motivation to female employees. Female employees are motivated to portray outstanding performance when assured that good performance would translate to promotion. Creating unbiased promotion policies, therefore, improve the productivity of female workers since it makes them strive to register good performance.

Choosing to treat all employees equally despite their gender creates a good corporate image.  Corporate image is a great importance to organizations operating in the contemporary business environment. Marketers argue that the current business environment is in the societal era where an emphasis is put on meeting the desires of the society.  Denying women equal opportunities dent the organization’s image. The absence of a good image complicates the ability of an organization to interact freely with members of the society. The success of an organization is to a great extent pegged on the ability to interact freely with the external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and financiers who are members of the society. These crucial stakeholders are reluctant to engage an organization that does not treat female workers with dignity.

Giving female workers equal opportunities enables an organization to avoid legal risks.  In the United States, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 prevents employers from discriminating female workers based on compensation(Blau & Kahn, 2013). Failure to comply with this act and other gender laws expose employers to litigations.  Legal costs are high and therefore compromise profitability.  Complying with anti-discrimination laws implies that organizations incur less legal costs that in turn increase profitability. The effectiveness of a manager is evaluated based on the profitability of an organization.  Managerial performance is therefore improved by merely treating employees equally.

It clear providing equal opportunities to both male and female workers creates tangible benefits to the organization. However, the same has negative ramifications some that compel managers to implement discrimination in hiring, promotion, and compensation.  These negative consequences are the pros of implementing discrimination in employment.

Workforce productivity is one of the advantages of implementing discrimination at the workplace. Maternal responsibilities are a key reason for discriminating female workers.  In specific, discriminating female workers during hiring and promotion increases the productivity of the workforce.  Avoiding hiring female employees at their childbearing age is desirable since it translates to fewer maternity leaves. Organizations incur huge losses emanating from maintaining working mothers who are on leave. Such employees are paid despite not offering services to the organization. Sometimes many employees can be on maternity leave at the same time implying that organizational work is likely to suffer.

Discriminating female workers during promotions increase organizational control. As stated earlier, senior positions are more demanding therefore requiring persons occupying them to dedicate more time to the employer. Maternal responsibilities cannot allow working mothers to dedicate ample time  to employer’s service.  The top management is charged with the responsibility of ensuring organizational control.  Managers therefore closely monitor operations in an organization to ensure that negative deviations are identified on a timely basis to support the implementation of intervention strategies on time.  Maternal responsibilities that are associated with female employees compromise the ability of female managers to monitor organizational operations due to time limitation.

Choosing to discriminate employees based on gender leads to the creation of a competent workforce. Evidence shows that the labor force is characterized by inequalities in the distribution of skills. These inequalities emanate from course selection in institutions of higher learning.  Technical courses are male dominated while women prefer non-technical courses. Technical skills are in great demand in work environment, especially in industrial-based economies.  Basing selection on merit in technical industries leads to a biased workforce considering male applicants have better technical skills.

In conclusion, managers are confronted with an ethical dilemma when addressing gender discrimination issues. The two main choices are treating employee equally or discriminate the female gender regarding pay, hiring, and promotion. Each choice has pros and cons that require managers to evaluate each alternative before making the final decision.


Blau, F. D., & Kahn, L. M. (2009). Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap. Journal of Labor Economics21(1), 106-144.

Blau, F. D., & Kahn, L. M. (2013). Gender Differences in Pay. Journal of Economic Perspectives14(4), 75-100.

Closing the gender gap. (2012). Chemistry & Industry, 76(12), 37-37.

Eveline, J., & Todd, P. (2009). Gender Mainstreaming: The Answer to the Gender Pay Gap?. Gender, Work & Organization, 16(5), 536-558.

Karamessini, M., & Ioakimoglou, E. (2007). Wage determination and the gender pay gap: A feminist political economy analysis and decomposition. Feminist Economics, 13(1), 31-66.




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