Advertisement

Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Ethics and the gender equality dilemma for U.S. multinationals

Abstract

U.S. multinational enterprises must now follow the policies of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in their overseas operations, at least with respect to U.S. expatriate employees. Doing so in a culture which discourages gender equality in the workplace raises difficult issues, both practically and ethically. Vigorously importing U.S. attitudes toward gender-equality into a social culture such as Japan or Saudi Arabia may seem “ethnocentric,” a version of “ethical imperialism.” Yet adapting to host country norms risks a kind of “moral relativism.” This article supports the view that MNEs which promote workplace equality in a host country such as Japan, which is actively involved in the international economic and political community, is not “ethical imperialism” in any pejorative sense and is preferable to a moral relativism or social contract approach.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain rights — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Adachi, K.: 1989, ‘Problems and Prospects of Management Development of Female Employees in Japan’,Journal of Management Development 8(4), 32–40.

  2. Alder, N.: 1984, ‘Women in International Management: Where are They?’,California Management Review 26, 78–89.

  3. Bassiry, G. R.: 1990, ‘Business Ethics and the United Nations: A Code of Conduct’,SAM Advanced Management Journal (Autumn), pp. 38–41.

  4. Bellace, J.: 1991, ‘The International Dimension of Title VII’,Cornell International Law Journal 24, 1–24.

  5. Bowie, N.: 1988, ‘The Moral Obligations of Multinational Corporations’, in Luper-Fay (ed.),Problems of International Justice (Westview Press, New York), pp. 97–113.

  6. Bowie, N.: 1977, ‘A Taxonomy for Discussing the Conflicting Responsibilities of a Multinational Corporation’, inResponsibilities of Multinational Corporations to Society (Arlington, Va.: Council of Better Business Bureau), pp. 21–43.

  7. Carney, L. and O'Kelly: 1987, ‘Barriers and Constraints to the Recruitment and Mobility of Female Managers in the Japanese Labor Force’,Human Resource Management 26(2), 193–216.

  8. Daimon, S.: 1991, ‘Karoshi’ Phenomenon Spreading to Female Workforce’,Japan Times Weekly (Intl. Ed.), Sept. 30–Oct. 6, p. 7.

  9. Donaldson, T. and T. Dunfee: 1991, ‘Social Contracts in Economic Life: A Theory’, No. 91–156 (revised) Working Paper Series, Department of Legal Studies, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 27–32.

  10. Dunfee, T.: 1991, ‘Extant Social Contracts’,Business Ethics Quarterly 1, 22–37.

  11. Edwards, L.: 1988, ‘Equal Employment Opportunity in Japan: A View from the West’,Industrial and Labor Relations Review 41(2), 240–250.

  12. Ford, J.: 1992, ‘Sexual Harassment Taken for Granted’,Japan Times Weekly (Intl. Ed.), Feb. 10–16, p. 4.

  13. Frederick, W.: 1991, ‘The Moral Authority of Transnational Corporate Codes’,Journal of Business Ethics 10, 165–177.

  14. Gundling, E.: 1991, ‘Ethics and Working with the Japanese: The Entrepreneur and the Elite Course’,California Management Review 33(3), 25–39.

  15. Howe M.: 1991, ‘Sex Discrimination Persists, According to a U.N. Study’,New York Times June 16, p. A4, col. 1.

  16. Lan, S.: 1991, ‘Japanese Businessman Produces Video to Prevent Lawsuits’,Japan Times Weekly (Intl. Ed.), Nov. 11–17, p. 8.

  17. Lansing, P. and K Ready: 1988, ‘Hiring Women Managers in Japan: An Alternative for Foreign Employers’,California Management Review 30(3), 112–121.

  18. Lebra, D.: 1984,Japanese Women: Constraint and Fulfillment (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu).

  19. Mayer, D.: 1991, ‘Sex Discrimination Policies for U.S. Companies Abroad’, in Sanders, W. (ed.),Proceedings of the Council on Employee Responsibilities and Rights (forth-coming).

  20. Moghadam, V.: 1988, ‘Women, Work, and Ideology in the Islamic Republic’,International Journal of Middle East Studies 20, 221–243.

  21. Neff, R.: 1991, ‘When in Japan, Recruit as the Japanese Do-Aggressively’,Business Week June 24, p. 58.

  22. Prater, C.: 1991, ‘Women Try on New Roles; But Hopes Can Still Collide With Tradition’,Detroit Free Press November 27, p. 1 (5th in a series, later published in theNew York Times).

  23. Rhoodie, E.: 1989,Discrimination Against Women: A Global Survey of the Economic, Educational, Social and Political Status of Women (London, U.K., McFarland and Company).

  24. Seymour, C.: 1991, ‘The Ad-business: Talented Women Need Not Apply’,Japan Times Weekly (Intl. Ed.), Dec. 9–15, p. 7.

  25. Simon, H. and F. Brown: 1990/91, ‘International Enforcement of Title VII: A Small World After All?’,Employee Relations Law Journal 16(3), 281–300.

  26. United Nations: 1979,Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, U.N. Doc. A/34/36 (Dec. 18, 1979).

  27. Watanabe, T.: 1992, ‘In Japan, a ‘Goat Man’ or No Man; Women are Gaining More Clout in Relationships’,Los Angeles Times Jan. 6, A1, col. 1.

  28. Weiner, M.: 1990, ‘Fundamental Misconceptions About Fundamental Rights: The Changing Nature of Women's Rights in the EEC and Their Application in the United Kingdom’,Harvard International Law Journal 31(2), 565–574.

  29. Wicks, A.: 1990, ‘Norman Bowie and Richard Rorty on Multinationals: Does Business Ethics Need ‘Metaphysical Comfort’?’,Journal of Business Ethics 9, 191–200.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

Don Mayer teaches Legal Environment of Business at Oakland University School of Business Administration. He received his L.L.M. in International and Comparative Law. Professor Mayer's work has appeared in the American Business Law Journal, the Midwest Law Review, and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. An article entitled “Sovereign Immunities and Moral Community” appears in the October 1992 issue of theBusiness Ethics Quarterly.

Anita Cava teaches Business Law and Business Ethics at both the graduate and undergraduate level at the University of Miami's School of Business Administration. She received her B.A. with Distinction and her J.D., Professor Cava has published in the area of ethics in law reviews and business journals.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mayer, D., Cava, A. Ethics and the gender equality dilemma for U.S. multinationals. J Bus Ethics 12, 701–708 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00881384

Download citation

Keywords

  • Host Country
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Gender Equality
  • Social Contract
  • Political Community