Sex Roles

, Volume 80, Issue 3–4, pp 218–233 | Cite as

Her/His Ethics? Managerial Ethics in Moral Decision-Making from a Contextual, Gendered, and Relational Perspective

  • Yona MillerEmail author
  • Ronit Kark
  • Noam Zohar
Original Article


For the last decades, the question of differences in the moral judgments of women and men and the role of an “ethics of care” versus an “ethics of justice” have been debated. The aim of the present study was to explore the gendered aspects of leaders’ moral judgments and how they interact with more communal (health/welfare services) versus agentic (banking) organizational contexts. Using qualitative-interpretative analysis, 50 men and women Israeli managers participated in in-depth interviews focused on the ways they construct, understand, and react to ethical work dilemmas. Results suggested that both gender and organizational context contributed to shaping the managers’ understandings and decisions regarding the ethical dilemmas in their work. Additionally, the relational target of the dilemma (i.e., clients, employees, supervisors) and situational variables (e.g., ambiguity) affected their moral judgments. Although feminist scholars often have claimed that the ethics of care is excluded from organizational discourse, our findings show that the ethics of care is a significant model for understanding managerial moral judgments. We discuss implications for managers and consultants regarding training of responsible leaders who can represent different moral orientations in their work with multiple stakeholders.


Gender differences Moral reasoning Leadership ethics Ethics of care Ethics of justice Relational self Agentic Communal 



The authors would like to thank the late Prof. Dafna Izraeli who gave the us the inspiration to study this topic. They also thank Tyler Okimoto for his comments on an earlier versions of the manuscript ​and Shulamit Zimmerman Kalker for her professional assistance with editing and translations.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The research was unfunded and conduct in accordance with the ethical standards of Bar-Ilan University. All participants gave informed consent prior to their participation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education, School of ManagementThe College for Academic StudiesOr YehudaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Psychology & The Graduate Gender Studies ProgramBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyBar Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael

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