Academic journal article Competition Forum

Undergraduate Male and Female Attitudes about Hypothetical Marketing Moral Dilemmas: Ten Years Later

Academic journal article Competition Forum

Undergraduate Male and Female Attitudes about Hypothetical Marketing Moral Dilemmas: Ten Years Later

Article excerpt


This study investigated the attitudinal responses of 305 undergraduate students with respect to nine hypothetical marketing moral dilemmas. Participants varied by gender, class, major, race, religion, and nationality. It was found that undergraduate women responded more ethically to the dilemmas, as hypothesized. This matched findings obtained ten years earlier. Seven different dilemmas contributed significant findings. All three attitudinal components (cognitive, affective, behavioral) contributed significant gender differences. For two dilemmas, male and female means were high for all three components. Implications of these findings for the undergraduate curriculum and for organizational management were discussed.


Men and women are America's two biggest markets. In addition, they are the world's two largest market segments. Therefore, both domestic and international marketers are interested in male-female attitudinal and behavioral differences.

Gender is also the focus of the two most sizeable groups in the U.S. workforce. Again, this is true of all organizations, whether they do business in their own countries alone or whether they also branch out cross-culturally.

Male and female undergraduates will be both consumers and employees. In fact, they are both already. How do they view the kinds of marketing moral dilemmas that could face them in their careers and in their lives in general? How do they feel about such scenarios as workers and citizens? How would they behave if it was their decision to make?


Prior to 1996: Betz, O'Connell, and Shepard (1989) found that men were more willing than women to behave unethically, e.g., purchasing securities with insider information. Kidwell, Stevens, and Bethke (1987) found that female managers were more likely than males to view concealing one's errors as unethical. The female students in McCabe, Dukerich, and Dutton (1991) were more ethical than males in choices made. Beltramini, Peterson, and Kozmetsky (1984) found females to be more concerned about whether ethical standards meet the needs of society. This was replicated by Peterson, Beltramini, and Kozmetsky (1991). Arlow (1991) found that females were less interested in the ends justifying the means.

1996: Malinowski and Berger asked undergraduates to respond attitudinally (cognitively, affectively, and behaviorally) to nine hypothetical marketing moral dilemmas. Women responded more ethically to the ethical scenarios. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven ANOVAs were significant.

After 1996: Mason and Mudrack (1997) studied undergraduate business students in Canada. Women were more likely than men to disagree that the organization or supervisor had the right to make employees "deviate from - ethical principles held by the person" (p. 101). Eynon, Hill, and Stevens (1997) studied licensed CDAs in the U.S. Women had significantly higher principled moral reasoning scores on the shortened version of Tests Defining Issues Test (DIT) then men did.

Reiss and Mitra (1998) studied college students in a Southern University. Males tended to regard extra-organizational behavior of an uncertain ethical nature (e.g. staying at the most expensive hotel on a company business trip) as more acceptable then females. Stevenson and Bodkin (1998) asked U.S. university students about the ethical acceptability of different selling approaches. The female students tended to find the scenarios to be significantly less ethical and significantly less acceptable then the male students did.

Haswell, Jubb, and Wearing (1999) studied first year undergraduate accounting students in Australia, South Africa, and the UK. When asked how likely they would engage in cheating, female students were significantly less likely than men to say they would cheat if there was no risk of detection and if they were offered money to do so. …

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