November 16, 2018 by

Brett Kavanaugh is a supreme court judge.

There were so many dimensions to this situation. Emotions ran high. I put politics aside because I am angry at both parties that seem to put themselves before country. 

Instead of politics, when I thought about what played out in the media, I focused on the question, “What are the ethical implications of the Ford/Kavanaugh testimonies for women and men in the workplace?”

First, for some people, the Ford/Kavanaugh testimonies were an in-your-face example of the double standard that exists. It appears that how she reacted was measured with a different ruler than how he reacted. Let me explain.

For Christine Ford to be credible she had to maintain a calm, measured, unemotional demeanor. If she cried as she testified, she would be seen as weak and unreliable. Yet Kavanaugh could be credible even when he raised his voice and interrupted others. When he showed emotion as he testified, he was perceived as passionate and strong in his convictions. This disparity in gender norms is striking and exists in the workplace. But it puts females at a disadvantage if males are allowed a wider range of acceptable behaviors.

For some people, the highest hope was that the process for making a decision about what she said versus what he said would be fair. Procedural justice should be served. The stakes, the reputations of individual people, are too high for anything less.

The American public had an expectation that the system would not only allow each person to be heard by unbiased investigators, but that exhaustive evidence would be sought, red herrings would be sorted out, and facts would be found. If it came down to she said/he said then clear-headed, fair-minded leaders would calmly and rationally make the best decision based on the exhaustive information gathered in a timely fashion, and then be accountable for that decision.

If we believe that the process is fair, we can live with an outcome with which we disagree.

Many believe procedural justice did not take place. Exhaustive evidence was not sought. Red herrings were not identified and put aside. Expectations were not met. If the senate judiciary system is not just, can we hope that corporate institutions will do better?

We must. We cannot let the distrust and anger felt from watching the senate judiciary process bleed into the workplace. The implications for women and men, working together, will be devastating.

This is a call to action. Our corporate systems must be fair. We must each be able to expect that when we step up to speak up, or when we defend ourselves against allegations, the process used to reach a decision is rigorous and unbiased. 

If nothing else comes from this horrible mess, let’s at least have this one thing happen. Let’s re-examine our organizational processes and ensure that they are just, noble, and true.


This column was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.