Feminine Ethics

Chapter Summary

This chapter considers whether there is a specifically feminine way of thinking about ethics, as well as exploring some insights that such a perspective might offer to business. The chapter also outlines contrasting ways of thinking about gender, as well as highlighting some ways in which corporate activity might be culpable of contributing to unhelpful, stereotypical images of femininity and masculinity. 

Self-test Questions

Feminine Ethics: an Alternative to the Masculine Mainstream

1.      Describe how, according to Carol Gilligan, a feminine ethic of care differs from a masculine justice perspective.

2.      Describe four feminine metaphors concerning stakeholder relationships suggested by Wick et al. and explain how these differ from more conventional masculine metaphors.

3.      What, according to Nel Noddings, is the ethical ideal?

4.      How, according to Noddings, is the ethical ideal encouraged by instances of natural care and ethical care?

5.      Suggest some ways in which, according to Noddings’ theory, businesses might become more fundamentally ethical.

Challenging the Idea that there is a Characteristically Feminine Moral Voice

6.      On what basis have some critics suggested that care ethics theory presents a misleading, over-simplified depiction of women’s ethical perspective?

7.      How might care ethics theory be accused of supporting unhelpful gender stereotypes?

8.      What reasons have been put forward to suggest that care ethics theory may foster paternalistic authority relationships?

9.      Do you think these criticisms of care ethics theory necessarily undermine its usefulness to business ethics, or does it make some useful contributions nevertheless?

10.  List as many ways as you can in which an ethic of care might encourage contrasting perspectives on business ethics to a more conventional justice perspective.

Business Activity and Notions of Femininity

11.  Describe how a social constructionist perspective on gender differs from an essentialist perspective.

12.  How do social constructionist and essentialist perspectives encourage people to show greater respect for difference in business contexts?

13.  Describe some ways in which consumer marketing images might be criticised for encouraging stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity.

14.  Give some reasons why marketers should be concerned about such criticisms.

Web Links


This site contains information and discussion about various aspects of feminist philosophy, including hyperlinks to related material.


The ‘Empowering Women in Business’ pages of the Feminist Majority website provide information and discussion about how women might play a more influential role in US business. 


In this 11-minute video, Luce Irigaray offers some thoughts on gender differences and the situation of women.


The Judith Butler pages on the theory.org.uk site offer an overview of Butler’s writing about gender, as well as providing links to associated material.


This Gender Ads Project site offers a lot of information and examples of the representation of gender in advertising.