I was brought up in a particularly egalitarian household: my father told me that I could do anything I wanted (except, perhaps, following my uncle into the steamrollering business, which was my ambition when I was five), while my mother encouraged me to make and save my own money so that I would be independent. I have always assumed that men and women are equal – but I am rather pleased to read that there is one area in which men are much more active than women: the commission of white collar crime.
A study published in the June 2013 edition of the American Sociological Review (I assume you all subscribe) and based on seven years of data from the federal Corporate Fraud Task Force has revealed that only 9% of those involved in high-level corporate frauds are women. Moreover, female corporate fraudsters steal less than their male counterparts: in the study, more than half of the women made only a trivial amount from their schemes, while a third of the men made more than US$1 million. Indeed, at all levels of crime, women profit less than men: a female CEO will steal less than a male CEO, a female middle manager will steal less than her counterpart, and so on down the organisation.
However (according to a 2012 survey of nearly 1,400 global fraud cases from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) when it comes to lower-level corporate crime – often committed by individual bookkeepers, bank tellers, and accountants rather than by groups – women make up about 45% of culprits. John Warren, vice president and general counsel of the ACFE, suggests that “when women commit fraud, they tend to do it for immediate financial need – maybe they were going through a messy divorce or had to cover large health-care bills – but whatever the reason, these women tapered their embezzling once their needs were met”.
Women are also, on average, more risk-averse than men. Even before they were accused of a crime, 20% of male fraudsters had been observed by colleagues to have a “wheeler-dealer attitude”, to be aggressive in deal-making and good at schmoozing, compared with only 5% of female fraudsters. As the authors of the American Sociological Review study put it, women are socialised “to an ethic of care”, meaning that they are less likely to engage in behaviour that hurts others. Unless you take the last square of chocolate, of course. Then it’s Miss Piggy all the way – haaaa-YAH!