Corporate crime gender gap: Fraud rings have glass ceilings

By Kristen Butler,

Even when it comes to criminal conspiracies, women face a glass ceiling, making significantly less money for their crimes than male accomplices.

Although high-profile "pink-collar" crimes have been more frequent as women gain positions of power, women in corporate crime are largely marginalized, often not profiting at all, while male ringleaders make millions.


“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,” wrote lead author Darrell J. Steffensmeier of Pennsylvania State University.

Researchers analyzed 83 fraud cases involving 436 defendants initiated from 2002 through 2009 by the multi-agency federal Corporate Fraud Task Force.

According to the findings, published in the journal American Sociological Review, women typically held inferior positions to men in the criminal enterprises, and rarely led a fraud ring.

In all, they found that only 37 women were indicted in these cases, or about 9 percent of all offenders. Women were often in lower positions within the company, such as accounting.

"The majority of male offenders held a top executive or upper-level positions whereas a much smaller portion of female conspirators were high-ranking officials -- only 8 percent of women were in top management and 30 percent were in upper-level positions," the authors wrote.


While researchers identified 156 male "ringleaders," only three lady crooks were the ringleaders of their operation, and only one of those -- Michele Tobin, former CEO of Network Technologies Group -- was not married to another ringleader.

More than half of all women -- 56 percent -- did not personally profit from the frauds they were involved in, while the majority of male offenders made half a million dollars or more.

Some women say they engaged in fraud to help save their company from bankruptcy or to appease investors or regulators. Others said they knowingly committed illegal acts because they were ordered by a superior to do the dirty work.

The researchers say their findings run parallel to sex segregation in the overall labor market. "As a result, women are likely either excluded entirely from lucrative criminal conspiracies or are utilized in sex-typed ways," they wrote.

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