Articles  |    |  March 15, 2000

Does gender matter in computer ethics?

Peer-reviewed article by Alison Adam and Jacqueline Ofori-Amanfo.
Published in Ethics and Information Technology.


Computer ethics is a relatively young discipline, hence it needs time both for reflection and for exploring alternative ethical standpoints in building up its own theoretical framework. Feminist ethics is offered as one such alternative particularly to inform issues of equality and power. We argue that feminist ethics is not narrowly confined to ‘women’s issues’ but is an approach with wider egalitarian applications. The rise of feminist ethics in relation to feminist theory in general is described and within that the work of Gilligan and others on an ‘ethic of care’. We argue for the need to connect theory to empirical evidence. Empirical studies of gender and business and computer ethics are reviewed. We note concerns with surveying a student audience, the issue of how far questionnaires and interviews can get to the heart of ethical beliefs and problems of performing statistical analyses of quantitative data. Although we recognize them, our own small survey cannot avoid all these problems. Nevertheless by refining our scenarios we are able to offer an alternative reading of a hacking problem in terms of an ethic of care thereby pointing a way forward for future research in computer ethics inspired by feminist theory.