Is There a Glass Ceiling in Corporate Crime?

(Photo: Victor1558)

(Photo: Victor1558)

Our podcast “Women Are Not Men” looked at a variety of gender gaps, including the fact that the vast majority of violent crime is committed by men. A new paper by Darrell J. Steffensmeier, Jennifer Schwartz, and Michael Roche in the American Sociological Review finds that women are less likely to be involved in corporate crime as well:

Typically, women were not part of 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.

“Men lead these conspiracies, and men generally prefer to work with men,” Steffensmeier told the Washington Post. “If they do use women, they use them because they have a certain utility or they have a personal relationship with that woman and they trust her.”

John Peschken

They are a smaller part of the conspirators who got caught.

Maybe they really do it less or maybe they are just better at it!


Yes, that's the problem with all statistics on criminals: you can really only study the unsuccessful ones.

Also, maybe women tend to have more sense than to conspire with others to commit crimes. Certainly it seems that many such conspiracies ultimately fail because one member rats out to save himself.

Julien Couvreur

Since you are doing a series on gender differences in our culture, here are a few related pointers which highlight ways in which the culture works against men.

Sentencing disparity and discrimination - A Focus on Gender

Child abuse by gender of victim and parent

Men as teachers or stay-at-home dads

Various other ways in which men have it worse:
Death in combat, industrial deaths and accidents, homicide and suicide victims, rape victims, custody decisions.

Credit for gathering all these sources goes to Stefan Molyneux:


Eric M. Jones

I always thought Martha Stewart's crime would never have gotten any Wall St. man into trouble.

I don't believe women are inherently "more honest", but there's that culture thing you know.


Wonder what those numbers will show in the future as the percentage of men in senior positions begins to shift to a more equal number of women. Are women less involved in conspiracies than men simply because fewer women are in equally high positions? Or are women less likely to join conspiracies?

Voice of Reason

I think that while you would find that women are not inherently any more ethical than men, men are found to statistically be more motivated by money than women. To participate in these schemes you have to be have an obsessive desire to be rich as well as loose morals.

A woman might be more likely to be involved in a crime that elevated her status among friends or protected her children.