Introduction In popular media and debates, both men and women sometimes utter the words that “if women had run the financial sector, we would not have found ourselves in this crisis” – or, the Lehman Sisters hypothesis. This paper will not go into the various views of sex and gender that may go behind this statement. But we do recognize the problem of natural fallacy here: if the statement would be based on a belief in some natural differences between women and men, it would imply that women would do better in any field of complex behavior that involves morality. And since much of human behavior is complex and has moral dimensions, it would therefore imply that women would better run not just the financial sector… So, we do not support any biological foundations that may possibly lie behind some of these utterances. The purpose of this paper, instead, is to first unveil the ethical dimensions of the financial crisis, and second, to understand the genderedness of these. We will do so by taking an economic-ethical approach in which we make explicit the ethical dimensions of the crisis and analyze these with the help of theories of ethics, in particular the ethics of care (Peil and van Staveren, 2009). This also allows us to recognize gender dimensions in the ethics of the financial crisis, because the ethics of care is a feminist ethical theory concerned with relationships which can be applied to a wide variety of relationships, including market relationships. The theory of care has been tested in some experimental settings, suggesting that women, on average, tend to behave more in ways that can be understood in terms of relationships, whereas men, on average, tend to behave more in ways that can be characterized in terms of rules. Using this theory, we will analyze the financial crisis, pointing at what are causal behavioral attitudes and how these are linked to gender.

Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISS Staff Group 3: Human Resources and Local Development
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

van Staveren, I.P. (2010). Would we have had this crisis if women had been running the financial sector?. ISS Staff Group 3: Human Resources and Local Development. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from