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Who is Willing to Sacrifice Sacred Values for Money and Social Status? Gender Differences in Reactions to Taboo Trade-offs


  • Kennedy, Jessica A.
  • Kray, Laura J.


Women select into top business degree programs at a lower rate than men and are underrepresented in high-ranking positions in business organizations. We examined taboo trade-off aversion as one possible explanation for these patterns. In Study 1, we found that women implicitly associated business with immorality more than men did. In Study 2, when reading of decisions that compromised ethical values for social status and monetary gains, women reported feeling more moral outrage and perceived less business sense in the decisions than men. In Study 3, we established a causal relationship between taboo trade-off aversion and women’s disinterest in business careers by manipulating the presence of taboo trade-offs in job descriptions. As hypothesized, an interaction between gender and taboo trade-off presence emerged. Only when jobs involved making taboo trade-offs did women report less interest in the jobs than men. Women's moral reservations mediated these effects.

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  • Kennedy, Jessica A. & Kray, Laura J., 2012. "Who is Willing to Sacrifice Sacred Values for Money and Social Status? Gender Differences in Reactions to Taboo Trade-offs," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt0tv798kj, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:indrel:qt0tv798kj

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jon Bakija & Adam Cole & Bradley Heim, 2008. "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-22, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jan 2012.
    2. Martin Hanselmann & Carmen Tanner, 2008. "Taboos and conflicts in decision making: Sacred values, decision difficulty, and emotions," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 51-63, January.
    3. Dreber, Anna & Johannesson, Magnus, 2008. "Gender differences in deception," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 197-199, April.
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    Business; gender; judgment and decision-making; ethics; morality;

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