Legal Issue & Civil Rights

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, except when there are bona fide occupational qualifications reasonably necessary to normal business operations. "(a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer – (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" (USINFO.

STATE. GOV) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 further states "(a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer – (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. " (USINFO. STATE. GOV)

Gender stereotyping falls under the protection of Title VII without much argument since the mere presence of stereotyping reflects an underlying bias that is clearly discriminatory. Ann Hopkins appears to have been a forceful person in her daily dealings with personnel and superiors. Her lack of interpersonal skills was noted in her evaluations as well as tendencies to abuse subordinates. Had gender comments not appeared in the evaluations as explanations or qualifiers, she probably would not have had a cause for action.

She was noted to be "rough on people" with the explanation offered that she "may have overcompensated for being a woman. " A partner suggested that she take "a course at a charm school" which is generally reserved for women improving their feminine traits. She was also described as "macho", although the comment was backhandedly complimentary, however "macho" is a trait almost exclusively attributed to men. Thomas Beyer advised that in order to improve her candidacy chances, she should "walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled and wear jewelry.

" The sheer number of negative evaluations by partners, who had had little interaction with Ann Hopkins, was alarming and discerning. Dr. Susan Fiske, a social psychologist who testified at the trial on stereotypic behavior, she believes that the innate presence of a stereotype gives some people the rationalization to use shortcuts in interactions with people, especially as those in power already have demands on their attention. Dr. Fiske testified that these powerful men were likely to hold stereotyped expectations about the women and pay less attention to their individual details, such as their qualifications.

The ultimate consideration becomes whether, in the absence of gender stereotypic comments in her evaluations, would Ann Hopkins have been voted into partnership? The evidence is not at all clear that this would have been the case as there were legitimate gender neutral negative impressions of her abilities in certain evaluations. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1991 had not been passed, so that PW had only to show evidence that absent any discriminatory behavior, she would have been refused partnership anyway, and therefore PW was not liable.

Even as PW freely admitted the bias and maintained its decision regarding Ann Hopkins' partnership qualifications. After four years with Price Waterhouse, Hopkins was nominated for partner. Eighty-eight individuals were nominated for partner, Hopkins being the sole woman in the group. She had generated the most business for the firm, at approximately $40 million in client revenues. However, in the end the Hopkins was not rewarded a partnership position. There were 32 evaluation forms commenting on Ann Hopkins' nomination for partner submitted to the admissions committee at PW.

Of those, 13 were positive, three suggested she be held until next year nominations, eight had insufficient information and eight were denials. The eight denials criticized Ann Hopkins' lack of personal skills, abrasive personality, and accused her of not being "feminine" enough to be a female partner. Comments were mad on how she should "walk more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry. " She was advised to undergo a "Quality Control Review" at the firm in order to work on her weaknesses.

The partners at PW clearly relied on fixed gender stereotypes as to the appropriate behavior of a female executive. Ann Hopkins was being judged based on a gender stereotype instead of her ability to complete assignments and generate profits for PW. In conclusion PW did in fact discriminate by judging Ann Hopkins by the traditional gender stereotypes and not on merit and she should have been made a partner in the firm. While Ann Hopkins' abilities and contributions were overlooked, the PW committee clearly fixated on her negative aspects more than her positive contributions to PW.

In addition, comments from both short and long forms were considered in equal measures even though short forms were from partners who did not know Ann Hopkins well. It is clearly unethical to allow such biases to distain a supposedly objective evaluation. The partnership evaluation process at PW was not perfect and was very subjective and in Ann Hopkins case, it was very sexes. There were many gender biased comments made against Ann Hopkins including changing her dress, hair style, make-up, as well as voice, speech, and mannerisms.

Although advice was offered at many levels to Ann Hopkins for her supposed failings, but all where superficial and none were performance oriented. It is unethical to presume that improvements in one's appearance or behavior would necessarily improve business qualifications. The establishment of stereotypes for female executives by male partners was unconsciously accepted and practiced by the partnership establishment as a whole. Improper or insensitive comments were not discouraged or reprimanded but were widely accepted as valuable data to be given full weight in discussions, even more so even than positive comments.

Such a corporate policy of tolerance of stereotypes, whether written or not is unethical in any definition. PW as a whole could have reviewed the partnership process in its entirety while disqualifying or reducing personal comments to have a less significant role in determining a candidacy, thus focusing on evaluating objectively. The weighting of the approval process should give equal measure to positive and negative statements, rather than overly emphasizing the negative. Partners persisting in gender stereotyping could be counseled as to the appropriate evaluation techniques and remarks.

From a utilitarianism perspective, it can be neither economical nor advantageous for a business to have spent the resources on training an employee for years, only to cause the employee to leave for a possible competitor. Ann Hopkins' contributions to PW was remarkable, she definitely billed more hours, garnered more important contracts and secured more profits than any other candidate in her class, to an estimated $40 million dollars, which obviously would seem to find her utility the greatest.

Offsetting these figures would be the negative utility of subordinate dissatisfaction and possible lost productivity resulting from her abrasive personality. These values maybe extremely difficult to quantify, yet must also be considered as well. In reviewing all these facts, one must conclude that PW did not behave ethically as there is no greater utility for a business than that of profit maximizing in every aspect and PW was definitely short sighted.

From another perspective, the utility of lessening the value of potential female candidates due to a preconceived notion of appropriate female behavior is absurd. Removing gender stereotyping from the partnership approval process would increase the availability of the best candidates regardless of sex. The ethical behavior with the greatest utility would be to embrace their presence and maximize the potential utility to the whole. In applying Kantian values, one must evaluate if the actions satisfied the categorical imperative.

Everyone should have a moral right to be treated as a free and equal person and should treat all other in the same way. ( Bruce, D. & Parks, J ) PW using gender stereotyping cannot argue that they would wish to be evaluated in a similar fashion; therefore their behavior in using gender stereotyping is unethical. The second dictum of the categorical imperative involves treating persons only as they would have freely consented to be treated beforehand, and develop each person's capacity to freely choose the aims they will pursue.

(Bruce, D. & Parks, J ) Clearly Ann Hopkins would not have consented to be treated in the manner that she was, since she was not allowed to freely choose her own aims. Therefore, PW again did not behave ethically. In conclusion, the partners of PW did not behave ethically in dealing with Ann Hopkins. The correct ethical behavior would have been to offer her a partnership based on the merits of her accomplishments, not smeared by gender stereotype preconceptions.