The glass ceiling extends even over white collar criminals, it seems: women typically hold inferior positions to men in the criminal conspiracies in which they are engaged, rarely lead a fraud ring and make significantly less money from their misdeeds than their male accomplices.
According to sociologist Darrel J. Steffensmeier of Pennsylvania State University, “Paralleling gendered labor market segmentation…sex segregation in corporate criminality is pervasive, suggesting only subtle shifts in gender socialization and women’s opportunities for significant white-collar crimes,’ he writes with his research colleagues in the journal American Sociological Review.
Steffensmeier and his team studied the involvement of women in recent corporate frauds using a unique database created by the federal government following the multi-billion dollar Enron scandal in 2001, according to a Pew Research article.
In a data set of 83 fraud cases and 436 defendants (2002-2009), only 37 women were indicted in connection with these corporate frauds – only nine percent of all offenders.
Women in these conspiracies also occupied lower rungs of the corporate ladder (accounting or finance positions) and played secondary roles in the conspiracy. Only eight percent of the female offenders were in top management, and 30 percent were in upper-level positions.
Only three women were identified as the conspiracy’s “ringleader,” compared to 156 men. Only one of those women was not married to another ringleader, the article reports.
Also, 56 percent of the women involved did not personally profit from the fraud. Some women committed their frauds to help save the company look better than it was or avoid bankruptcy. Others said they knowingly committed illegal acts because they were instructed to do so by a superior.