Female CEOs judged more harshly after ethical failure

New York: Women CEOs do not always have it easy as researchers have found that people are less likely to support an organisation after an ethical failure if the business is helmed by a female. Female leaders, however, receive less negativity for general business failures, said the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Our study found that consumers’ trust in, and willingness to support, an organisation after a failure varied based on the gender of the organisation’s leader and the type of incident,” said lead author of the study Nicole Votolato Montgomery of the University of Virginia in the US.

“Women incur greater penalties for ethical transgressions because of persistent gender stereotypes that tend to categorise women as having more communal traits than men, such as being more likable, sensitive and supportive of others,” Nicole Votolato said.

In the first experiment, 512 participants read a business news article about an auto manufacturer and then filled out a survey about their intent to buy a vehicle from the company. One-third of the participants read about an ethical failure, one-third read about a competence failure and the final third only read the company description.

Afterward, the participants were asked how likely they were to purchase a car from the company the next time they were in the market for a vehicle and reported their trust in the organisation. “When participants were told that the company had previously been made aware of a fuel sensor problem and failed to take immediate action, an ethical failure, they reported less intent to purchase from the company when the CEO was a woman than when the CEO was a man,” said Montgomery.