Questions of Fraud and Gender

Are women being unfairly prevented from engaging in corporate fraud?  That seems to the be conclusion espoused by sociologist Darrell J. Steffensmeier of Pennsylvania State University in his recent study published in the journal American Sociological Review:

“Typically, women were not part of'[fraud] conspiracy groups. When women were involved, they had more minor roles and made less profit than their male co-conspirators. Two main pathways defined female involvement: relational (close personal relationship with a main male co-conspirator) and utility (occupied a financial-gateway corporate position). Paralleling gendered labor market segmentation processes that limit and shape women’s entry into economic roles, sex segregation in corporate criminality is pervasive, suggesting only subtle shifts in gender socialization and women’s opportunities for significant white-collar crimes. Our findings do not comport with images of highly placed or powerful white-collar female criminals.”

The data set for this analysis consisted of 83 fraud cases and 436 defendants in fraud cases occurring between 2002 and 2009, as reported by the Corporate Fraud Task Force. Overall, women comprised only 9% of all offenders and were generally secondary players in lower profile positions.  Even more surprising is that more than half of these women did not personally profit from the fraud, but engaged in their fraudulent acts in order to “benefit” the company or at the behest of a superior, while the majority of male offenders fraudulently gained over $500,000.  Overall the researchers concluded that fraud opportunities reflect sexual discrimination in the workplace, in that “women are likely either excluded entirely from lucrative criminal conspiracies or are utilized in sex-typed ways”.

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