Three reasons why impropriety in financial institutions are no surprise and nothing will change

Posted: 2/05/2018

1. Homo Economicus or economic man mindset

The Australian review of the banking and finance industries, under Justice Kenneth Haynes, will almost certainly recommend changes to corporate culture, as has become the norm in similar reviews in recent years. Culture is a complex set of relationships, norms and attitudes that are hard to change. At the root of culture is the mindset of what motivates humans, themselves and clients, which for people in the financial industry is homo economicus. This is a mindset that views humans as rational, self-interested agents who pursue measurable financial outcomes or near equivalents, like status or power, which are believed to contribute to financial rewards. Ethics, social responsibility and other considerations that are hard to convert into financial consequences in ex-ante calculations tend to get ignored. The homo economicus mindset leads to the types of norms and attitudes that result in bending of rules to hit targets and achieve bonus and incentive structures reinforce these. Business, including financial institutions, do donate large sums to social causes, sometimes in very public displays for reputational benefits, but often quietly and unheralded. These contributions are like business people described as “weekend Christians” (or Muslims, Jews, etc.), who practice religious values, such as compassion and virtue, with family, friends and others on the weekend but not in the business from Monday to Friday.

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Cultural diversity targets in corporate leadership are merely lip service.

Posted: 24/04/2018

Cultural diversity targets in leadership have failed to be met according to Leading for Change, an examination of corporate cultural diversity in Australia by Australian Human Rights Commission, University of Sydney, Asia Society Australia and Committee for Sydney. The 2018 follow up to the original 2016 report showed ‘there was not significantly more cultural diversity at the group executive level (C-suite) of Australian organisations’. Organisations included ASX 200 companies, federal ministries, federal and state government departments and universities.

According to the report “97% of chief executives have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. This is a dismal statistic for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism”.

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The Precarious Glass Cliff

Robert Wood March 2018

Posted: 23/04/2018

So you’ve made it past the glass ceiling. But what of the glass cliff?

Back in 2003 a Times article in London reported that top companies with women on their boards of directors experienced decreased annual share price compared to companies with boards with less, or even no women. Sounds suspicious?

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Mary Magdalene: A Victim of Backlash?

Professor Robert Wood March 2018

Posted: 17/04/2018

Anyone familiar with the story of Jesus will know of Mary Magadalene, the fallen women forgiven and raised up by Jesus. A childless prostitute who provides a contrast to the purity of Mary, the Virgin mother of Jesus. One to demonstrate God’s forgiveness, through Jesus, and the other the exemplar of the chaste good women to which all girls should aspire. None of this comes, literally, from the Bible, but was started in the sixth century by Pope Gregory the Great who refers to Mary M. as a penitent prostitute possessed by "seven demons" that were exorcised by Jesus. This is the Mary M. portrayed in paintings, religious teachings and popular characterizations, as in director Mel Gibson’s portrayal in the “Last Passion of Christ”. Gibson is a very public Catholic and his portrayal of Mary M. as a sinner, albeit an attractive and sexy young woman, fits with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the public image of Gibson.

Her recent recasting as Jesus's wife and mother of his child, popularized in the book and movie, The Da Vinci Code, is of dubious historical validity and again does not place Mary M. as an equal among the apostles who advised Jesus. She is the wife of the great man, but not a respected advisor or equal.

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Sex and Emotions

Professor Robert Wood March 2018

Posted: 14/11/2017

Not that sex! Sex as in woman and man, and the question “are women more emotional than men?” Conventional wisdom, pan cultural stereotypes, and readily available examples, all tell us that women are more emotional than men. But are they? Women score higher than men on neuroticism trait scales, which ask respondents about their tendency to experience negative emotions “in general”. But, studies that assess the actual experience of negative emotions, such as distress, frustration, anger, sadness, etc., in response to actual situations, such as crises, setbacks, goal blockages, etc., find no differences between men and women.

Why would men and women report different levels of emotionality when reflecting on the frequency of experiences over some unspecified periods and situations in the past, but report the same levels when reporting on their experiences of emotions as they occur in response to a specific situation? Which is the most accurate?

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