Art Hinshaw (ASU)–Gender & Negotiation Ethics

So Art is too modest to blog about himself but he kicked off this morning presenting on his new paper examining the role of gender in making ethical decisions.  Counter to other previous studies, Art and his co-author Jess Alberts find that when faced with a client request not to disclose a material fact, women are more likely to comply.  In other words, women lawyers were more unethical in this particular situation than men.

Comments this morning included:

*one possible explanation is that women are not as good at asserting their own interests in ethics versus their client’s interest in deception

*the reasons that lawyers give for their behavior will be even more important than the data

* the study structure does not provide the option of talking to the client and perhaps the unsure answer was because women wanted to consult with their client first

* has this case been studied when the gender of client switched and whether would be difference

* perhaps the women lawyers judge the woman (who behaved poorly) more harshly

* lawyers don’t think consciously about the ethics rules; this is an issue of ethical fading

* these findings do not match what has been found in other contexts so it would be interesting to see exactly why and for what reason women made those choices

* the problem here is that we don’t want to accept that women less ethical so comments try to pick apart the study to avoid the conclusion

*the problem here is also that men and women behave differently and judge differently in situations having to do with sexual behavior

5 thoughts on “Art Hinshaw (ASU)–Gender & Negotiation Ethics”

  1. When I read the short synopsis of the paper, the first thing I thought about was all of the other variables that would play a part besides gender: whether the clients were men or women, the age of the participants, the work environment (large or small firms) and the type of law (corporate, family, etc.). I also wonder whether the behavior is at all connected with the fact that law is a field that has been historically dominated by men and whether women in other male-dominated fields would show the same tendencies. It’s an interesting topic and I’d like to see if and how the study controls for the endless other variables, aside from gender, that affect one’s ethics.

  2. Considering that this study produced a result contrary to previous studies it would be interesting to compare the methods with those of previous studies. Is there some distinguishing factor, the method of sampling, the geographical location, or other identifiable difference that sets it apart from the earlier studies? It seems that there could be numerous confounding variables in a study like this, making a controlled, repeatable design difficult if not impossible. It also seems that it could be difficult to develop a truly objective measure for this type of study, especially if it is relying on interviews or other individual statements to collect the data. As someone with experience in experimental design and analysis, I would also be interested in seeing the statistical significance of the results, and the methods of measurement used in the study to see if it in any way differed from previous studies.

  3. Building off the comments Professor Schneider noted regarding this topic, I propose an alternative explanation: Do women lawyers in a law firm setting feel the need to be more unethical than their male counterparts to gain performance advantages in an attempt to make up for the unequal gender distribution in the traditionally male dominated law firm workplace? It would seem logical to me that women lawyers may feel the need to be more aggressive and possibly less ethical in their negotiation tactics to overcome prejudices that may exist in particular legal environments. There are no doubt many theories that could explain the interesting results of this study. A very interesting topic.

  4. Ironically enough, we talked about this ethical scenario in my Dispute Resolution class today. We had a hypothetical situation where our client asked us not to disclose a material fact to the opposing side that he just discovered minutes before the negotiation. Out of the 6 people in the class (3 males, 3 females), 3 said they would not disclose (2 females, 1 male), 2 said they would disclose (1 male, 1 female), while the last participant decided he would drop the case and cancel the mediation (which I guess would be not disclosing).

    Not factoring in the last guy, our class demonstrated the fact that women are twice as likely then men not to disclose a material fact to the other side. I think there are many possible explanations for this outcome. One that stands out to me is the third listed in this blog: the study structure does not provide the option of talking to the client and perhaps the unsure answer was because women wanted to consult with their client first.

    Women need to talk. Women want to discuss a situation and feel good about their “informed” decision. When confronted with this tough situation, a woman’s initial reaction is to be loyal to their client and not disclose something they may believe, at first, is privileged information. I have no doubt that if the hypothetical expressed an option to talk to the client first or to have adequate time to think about the decision, most every woman would choose it. In fact, one of the females in my class decided after we discussed the question that if she knew “I’m not sure” was an option, she would have chosen it.

    I’m not sure if the results from this question accurately depict the overall conclusion that women are less ethical than men. There are surely other factors to consider (many that are mentioned in this blog). What was the exact material fact involved? Was the information something the participate had personal experience with? Where was the study conducted? Were there religious beliefs involved? How many times did the participants take the MPRE? (ha)

    Who knows… Maybe the real conclusion from this study should be that women are simply more loyal then men?? (Or at least at first, until they have time to think about it).

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