Gender Equality: A Historical Dilemma with Lingering Effects
PRAD 575- Law & Ethics Potter Box Analysis
An emerging Communications start up in Silicon Valley, has started the popular conversation on gender equality. In the CEO’s pursuit to run the best company and increase employee diversity, she chooses to engage the public in a commercial series, promoting gender equality. As a result, an ethical issue arises. One that reminds the public of how gender inequality has been normalized—historically; and another, that brings to question: “Is the American society suffering from the lingering effects of a male dominant world? The Declaration of Independence reminds us: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”(n.d.) But, is this historic excerpt actualized in the workplace of mainstream America? The choice of using the word “men” highlights the historic normalization of male power. Although society has evolved, there is a thin line between Americans who believe men should operate in the most powerful roles in the workplace; versus Americans who believe talent and capabilities should trump the “male candidate superiority” theory.
The company is currently breaking into the Communications industry as a new public influencer. Therefore, choosing to execute a controversial campaign such as gender equality, may greatly impact the public reputation of this new company. Although the CEO’s intent to promote diversity in employee engagement is great, society may not be ready to receive this message. Consider the last presidential election with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton—some women were ready to address this historic dilemma by breaking the monotony in male power. However, other women chose to follow history and continue with the “male-dominant” mentality. According to the scholarly article, Female Leadership Advantage and Disadvantage: Resolving the Contradictionstates:
“In the United States, women are increasingly praised for having excellent skills for leadership and, in fact, women, more than men, manifest leadership styles associated with effective performance as leaders. Nevertheless, more people prefer male than female bosses, and it is more difficult for women than men to become leaders and to succeed in male-dominated leadership roles”(Eagly, 2007).
The aforementioned cultural norm constantly reminds the public of this male-female theory. Arguably, it has become a delicate topic and one that must be presented cautiously.
Female Consumers (Stakeholder #1)
Female consumers will be a definite stakeholder, because of the harsh social reality that, “gender roles are still determining factors for specific leadership roles in the workplace. It is important for the CEO to consider this historical dilemma, to ensure that her goal of “being the best” is not threatened by losing a great deal of female consumers because of their communicative stance toward gender equality. Female consumers will want to support a company that not only celebrates equal opportunity toward females but also shows dual diversity in talent and gender. Female consumers have a lot “at stake”. —Money. As a consumer, you hope to spend money on products that represent companies with similar values.
Female Employees (Stakeholder #2)
Current female employees are stakeholders; Females who are qualified candidates may feel inferior to the upper management positions because of the societal norm of leadership in the workplace, being favorable to men. They may say things like: “I am not going to apply for the Creative Director position. I know Jim is going to get it.” “What’s the point of running for President—I’m female”. As a result, this can undeniably effect the upward mobility of the success of this new start-up; Simply because female employees may believe this notion of “societal perception”, will be actualized at the company. Why is Silicon Valley so Awful to Womenstates: “As a woman in tech, she should be prepared to have her authority questioned at any moment, even by some guy trying to get a job at her company”(Mundy 2017). This quote emulates the aforesaid level of inferiority of male dominance and a notion of entitlement. It is a clear reference to the societal norm that a woman should expect her authority to be “questioned” by a man. Not just any man, but possibly one who is not a part of her professional environment. There is a loud tone of intimidation in this quote. A current female employee should not have her authority questioned by a male just because “he is male”. Additionally, a female employee should not feel like a man who is seeking a job at her company has any power over her functionality in that company.
Self – Improvement (#3)
The idea of self-improvement is one of the most amazing assets in employee development. As a new start-up company, it is imperative to have employees who are all about the “work”—ones that fully engage in the process of being better, while making the field and society better. Energy BBDO, a successful Advertising company drives their creative process on the “work”, thus, an “all around” strong company filled with dedicated thought leaders. “The Work. The Work. The Work…This is the BBDO mantra, reflecting our unwavering belief that in the absence of great work, nothing else matters” (BBDO). Ultimately, a better employee results in a more informed employee. Self-improvement is essential for company evolvement. For example, a Creative Director should always exercise new ways to explore creativity. While a Public Relations Director should constantly engage in the entire PR process to ensure self-development and proficiency. Self-improvement is vital in this dilemma simply because without it the talent dwindles, and the “male-take-over” notion can creep in. The efforts to self-improve should be a definite priority.
Training in Ethical Judgment with a modified Potter Box by Loy D. Watley explores a powerful argument on the “duty of beneficence”. The role of Public Relations can seem complex, however, the simplicity lies in the never-ending goal of articulating messages to educate the public. The overall platform of Public Relations is a very powerful one, primarily because there is a global microphone that can reach a countless number of people by way of traditional and non-traditional communications. There is a huge opportunity to educate and improve the lives of people in society. “The duty of beneficence asks us to improve the lives of others, particularly their virtue and intelligence (Audi 2004). This idea of improvement and intelligence is not only beneficial for the company as an organization, but the society as well. The question becomes, will the public benefit from the qualified candidates behind the round table? Or the male candidate despite his qualifications and applicable talent. Beneficence requires talent, qualifications, and the absence of fear; Fear of female authority, or simply the fear of seeking change.
The notion of entitlement is that people feel entitlement for various reasons based on an array of things including upbringing, social class, individual views of themselves and others, and value systems. In the case of this dilemma, entitlement (humanizing it), a typical straight white middle-class American male comes to mind. Reflecting on the United States Federal Constitution written by white American males inclusive of all their birthrights and liberties. The Preamble outlines the unalienable rights given to the citizens of the United States, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It further delineated these rights in the Declaration of Independence that was written by the nation's “Founding Fathers.” All of this information, acquired through formal education, is absolutely a teachable moment in the field of Communications today; primarily because it speaks to where the ideas of entitlement amongst gender roles come from. So, how should a campaign fight the lingering effects of this imbedded perception? Generally speaking, do men feel entitled to leadership roles in the workplace?
The Webster dictionary defines fairness as: “marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism”. By this definition, this particular gender identity dilemma could use the presence of fairness during the planning process of the CEO’s commercial series idea. It will be very difficult to achieve an ethical campaign promoting gender equality without considering the situation and stakeholders in this analysis. What does fairness look like in this instance? It looks like talented individuals, with relatable qualifications. It also looks like a society that’s open-minded and willing to accept a new dynamic of gender normalization.
“As Segal says, most employers understand the concept of unconscious bias, they just don’t believe it happens at their company. But since it can exist everywhere, hiring managers should circulate resumes with names removed, so women are not discriminated against” (Staley 2016).
Although this quote is a direct reference to hiring, this frame of mind is also applicable to the gender equality dilemma, and the fairness value. Being fair in thought and perception will guide this dilemma a lot better. Equality is not about just saying, “you are equal” to those that feel they are not; its about feeling like you are equal in the society you aspire in.
How to advertise?
(Future Employees)- Advertise to the thought leaders, “go-getters”, and talented Public Relations/Advertising professionals.
Target Audience: “The genderless candidate” (The Qualified are not only male)
Creating a campaign based on the “genderless candidate” leaves so much room for growth of the company, creativity in ads, and societal change.
The campaign should include:
Non conventional workplace scenes
A balance of female leaders and male leaders.
(Consumers) Consumers want to see people that look like them. But in this case, we are trying to shed light on a “new” norm. Saying “we want the talented, & qualified” will not be enough. It will be imperative to drive home the idea of “faceless candidates” because that will appeal to the current employees, future employees and consumers. Current employees will be happy to work for a company that chooses to make this statement about gender equality; future employees would love to come on board, and consumers will remain happy.
Rule: When creating a communications campaign promoting gender equality, it is imperative to advertise to a “faceless” audience. The growth of your company by way of employees and consumers depends on the talent behind the table, not the gender.
Eagly, A. H. (2007). Female leadership advantage and disadvantage: Resolving the contradictions. Psychology of women quarterly, 31(1), 1-12.
Mundy, L. (2017, April 05). Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women? Retrieved April 06, 2017, from
Staley, O. (2016, June 22). 12 things employers can do to improve gender equality at their workplace. Retrieved April 06, 2017, from
The Declaration of Independence: Full text. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from