Brenda Jones, a chemistry laboratory technician at XYZ, returned to her laboratory
frustrated and angry after her meeting with her department manager, Mike Richards. She had
asked for the meeting in order to discuss a job posting for a process chemist in one of
XYZs factories. She regarded this job as a real opportunity to match her skills and
abilities with her responsibilities.
Brenda had been a brilliant college student, excelling in chemistry and chemical
engineering. However, when she sought employment the state of the economy made it very
difficult for her to find an appropriate position. She took the only job related to her
field that she could find--a chemistry laboratory technician in the research laboratories
at XYZ. It soon became obvious to XYZs research management that Brenda was capable
of handling a much more demanding position. After a short time she was promoted to a
chemists positon in XYZs technical service organization. She regarded becoming
a process chemist as a good next step in her career.
What frustrated and angered Brenda at her meeting with Mike was his flat refusal to
place her name in application for the process chemist position. "Brenda," he
said, "you would find the atmosphere in a factory too demanding for you as a woman.
Thats a very high-pressure job. What would you do if your kids got sick again? The
factory has got to run and they wouldnt wait for you while you stayed home to play
This was not the first time Mike had indicated doubts about what she could handle.
Shortly after her transfer into the technical service department, Mike told Brenda that,
as the only woman in the department, she would not be invited to the departments
annual off-site planning and recreational meeting. "Youd be the only woman
there and I think youd be very uncomfortable," he said, adding that
"besides, the language in the discussions sometimes gets a little rough and we
wouldnt want to subject you to that. OK?" Although too stunned to do anything
but nod her assent, Brenda was very upset at Mikes attitude, which she considered to
be quite unprofessional.
Even more upsetting to Brenda was Mikes first performance appraisal of her work.
During her first year in the department, Brenda had to take several consecutive days off
when one of her children became seriously ill. She had done her best not to let her work
assignments fall behind and had worked many extra hours after her childs health was
restored. However, during her annual appraisal, Mike had criticized her severely because
of her "poor attendance record."
When she first considered whether to transfer into the technical service department,
Brenda was warned by some of her co-workers that Mike Richards did not particularly like
to have women working for him. But she decided to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. She was
now convinced that her co-workers were right, but she was also faced with the question of
what to do. She could take a grievance to XYZs human resource manager. But he was
also male and had a reputation for giving women who complained to him a hard time. Sh
might ask for a lateral transfer to another department in the research laboratories. She
might try to stick it out and make the best of a frustrating situation, while keeping her
eyes open for opportunities with another company. Or perhaps she could confide in someone
she trusts and ask for advice.
What advice might such a person give Brenda? What ethical questions does this case