Effect of business education on women and men students' attitudes on corporate responsibility in society

Journal of Business Ethics 82 (1):45 - 58 (2008)
This article describes a survey among Finnish business students to find answers to the following questions: How do business students define a well-run company? What are their attitudes on the responsibilities of business in society? Do the attitudes of women students differ from those of men? What is the influence of business education on these attitudes? Our sample comprised 217 students pursuing a master’s degree in business studies at two Finnish universities. The results show that, as a whole, students valued the stakeholder model of the company more than the shareholder model. However, attitudes differed according to gender: women students were more in favor of the stakeholder model and placed more weight on corporate ethical, environmental, and societal responsibilities than their men counterparts – both at the beginning and at the end of their studies. Thus, no gender socialization effect of business school education could be observed in this sense. Business school education was found to shape women and men students’ attitudes in two ways. Firstly, valuation of the shareholder model increased and, secondly, the importance of equal-opportunity employment decreased in the course of education. This raises the question whether the educational context is creating an undesirable tendency among future business professionals. The results further suggest that the sociocultural context can make a difference in how corporate social responsibility is perceived. The article also discusses possible ways to influence the attitudes of business students.
Keywords attitude  responsibility  business  corporate social responsibility  gender  business education  socialization  Finland
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