Women’s History Month: Honoring Female Ethical Leadership

March is Women’s History Month and the Business Ethics Alliance is busy preparing for the first major Signature Event of 2023 on March 23 in which we explore Women in Leadership with two female leadership powerhouses in the Omaha business community: Karen Hudgins, President and Chief Operating Officer of Signature Performance and Aileen Warren, President and CEO of ICAN. Some of the discussion content will be taken from an article on the Glass Cliff phenomenon co-written by Dr. Regina Taylor, Assistant Professor of Management at Creighton University, Creighton graduate Olivia Moyle, and Dr. Sijing Wei, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Business Intelligence and Analytics. 

The Glass Cliff phenomenon suggests that women are more likely to advance into higher positions of leadership during times when an organization is experiencing significant financial duress, cultural chaos, and/or other types of crises when failure is likely. This disappointing, fragile, and potentially harmful phenomenon may be especially true if ethical transgressions are involved. One 2019 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “women incur greater penalties for ethical transgressions because of persistent gender stereotypes.” In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s look at a few other findings about ethical behavior among female leaders.

A 2015 study from the Pew Research Center on Women and Leadership found that “women are perceived to have an edge … when it comes to being honest and ethical” especially when it comes to “providing fair pay and benefits and offering mentorship.” This same study also found that women and men are equally capable of being good business leaders although gender stereotypes exist. A 2016 research report from the National Business Ethics Survey conducted in 2013 on behalf of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative (ECI) found that “male and female leaders act similarly when it comes to ethics.” Shared priorities include maintaining company integrity, meeting business goals, and treating all employees fairly and with dignity. However, female employees, including female leaders, “face tougher ethics environments than male employees.” 

A 2020 blog from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation suggests that “overall, women have been found to be less tolerant … of a wide variety of unethical negotiating strategies.” The blog also points out that in addition to being more socialized to be more ethical negotiators, women tend to internalize moral traits more strongly due to a more communal and relationship-driven approach toward others. 

Finally, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Research in Education found that female leaders in higher education (director, dean vice-president, president) internalized and lived out an ethical framework based on social responsibility. These women saw ethical leadership as much bigger than a role or title and were most concerned with equity and fairness. 



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March Women

So what is the bottom line for women in leadership positions? Leadership at all levels makes a difference in organizational culture, especially when it comes to ethical behavior. Management, human resources, and industrial and organizational psychology studies all help inform ethical practices that support balanced, equitable, and healthy organizational culture practices which in turn increase positive outcomes in an organization’s bottom line. 

In a world where only 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, the Greater Omaha area is fortunate to have so many female leaders to look up to as beacons of ethical leadership. Our March Women in Leadership Signature Event speakers are excellent examples of strong women who provide ethical leadership to their organizations and the Omaha community. At the Business Ethics Alliance, we are fortunate to have exceptionally dedicated, capable, and strong female leadership in our founding, daily operations, Governing Board, and Trustee Partner ranks. Thank you to Dr. Beverly Kracher, one of our founders, who had the vision to collaborate with business leaders on the heels of the Enron scandal over 15 years ago to form the Alliance and provide high-quality business ethics education. Thank yous also go out to the women who provide current leadership, guidance, and support for the Alliance:

-Shannon Underwood, Operations Manager

-AnnMarie Marlier, Vice President of Leadership Development

-Madeline Moyer, Board Vice-Chair and Senior Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Market Manager at Security National Bank of Omaha

-Christine Neuharth, Board Member and Senior General Attorney at Union Pacific Railroad

-Patricia Kearns, Trustee Chair, Board Member, and President & CEO at QLI

-Samantha Mosser, Trustee Vice-Chair and President and CEO at Banker’s Trust

We honor, value, and respect your leadership not just during Women’s History Month, but all year round!

Save These Dates:

March 23, 2023: Spring Ethics Breakfast Women in Leadership

April 20, 2023: Spring Ethics Luncheon Diversity on Boards

May 25, 2023: Spring Mind Candy Dialogue Mental Health in the Workplace

June 29, 2023: Summer Mind Candy Dialogue Ethics of the Hybrid Work Team

August 03, 2023: Summer Ethics Luncheon Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Business

October 05, 2023: 15th Anniversary Celebration Ethicspace Conference

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