Business Ethics and Equality at the Top Women in Positions of Leadership Case Study

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Business Ethics and the Art of Inclusion: Women in White Collar America

The quantity of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies decreased by 25% in 2018, falling from 32 to 24: this means that only 4.8 percent of the most profitable 500 firms in the world are run by women in America (Stewart, 2018). How one can achieve inclusiveness within the workplace is definitely a hot-button issue in today’s workplace, particularly given the climate. Social movements for equality and safety in the workplace for all genders such as the #metoo and #timesup movement have made companies large and small look inwards and attempt to clean house, revising their practices. This is in part because of numerous corporate scandals such as the ones at Nike and Uber that have shown white collar America still often does not provide a balanced work environment for women, even in the 21st century. This paper examines the challenge to inclusiveness as discussed in the article, “Women and Workplace Respect: The Challenge for Corporate Leaders” by Gael O’Brien.

O’Brien’s article is so insightful because she pinpoints how many of the thigns that big corporations say post gender-bias scandal (or any other scandal that demonstrates a hostile work environment to women) is that they will enact a “zero-tolerance” policy towards such an unhealthy culture. As O’Brien has found, such promises are often “hollow” as she says, and something that these corporate spokespeople just say as a means of saving face for the media.

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Instead, O’Brien engaged in researching a company that actually claimed to have zero tolerance policy and was able to consistently fulfill these goals year after year. Paul O’Neill was able to change the company policy at Alcoa by instituting a zero incidence policy: this meant vocalizing repeatedly that there was a strong expectation that the company would have zero occurrences of sexual harassment, while putting a spotlight on mutual respect (O’Brien, 2018). Perhaps the most important aspect of this method was that there was an emphasis on repeating the message. This is one of the wisest elements of their protocol because it prevented a negative culture from seeping in. In order to maintain high standards, a company needs to consistently remind all of its members that a high level culture is part of the standard and expectation. This quite frankly, keeps everyone on their toes. O’Neill discusses how he created an environment where all employees were safe and the number of incidents were so low it was negligible. This created an environment of complete transparency: if any incident with safety should occur, O’Neill made sure that there was a clear lesson learned. This was if an incident happened, no one on the team felt like they were taking a step back in their own development: it was all….....

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Konrad, A. M., Kramer, V., & Erkut, S. (2008). The impact of three or more women on corporate boards. Organizational dynamics, 37(2), 145-164.

O'Brien, G. (2017, April 14). Women and Workplace Respect: The Challenge for Corporate Leaders | Business Ethics. Retrieved from

Smith, N., Smith, V., & Verner, M. (2006). Do women in top management affect firm performance? A panel study of 2,500 Danish firms. International Journal of productivity and Performance management, 55(7), 569-593.

Stewart, E. (2018, June 8). Women are running for office in record numbers. In corporate America, they're losing ground. Retrieved from

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