Does corruption have a gender*?

     There are many misconceptions around the theme of corruption: it is associated with business and governmental sector with men as main characters. It's partially true: we don't know that much about women in power who were terribly corrupt. But we know many other women who daily participate in the schemes of corruption just because they have to.

    Men are more egoistic, women more altruistic, and it influences their attitude to money — is it a delusion or just realistic view on things? If there are more women in politics, the government will not be so corrupt - works or not? Corruption is a complex issue, but we definitely have some answers.

Who is affected by corruption?

      Corruption always hits vulnerable groups to which belong kids, older people, poor and women as less privileged gender in terms of financial independence. Still, the difference in numbers between men and women who are affected by poverty is not as significant as we could think.

     '70% of the worlds poor are women' - a common statistical manipulation which seems shocking unless you know it's not true. Women are more likely to suffer from poverty (and, therefore, corruption) but not in these large numbers: 122 women in their 25-34 are poor compared to 100 men of the same age. More indicative is a percentage of employed women compared to men: 63 and 94% accordingly. With obviously unequal access to finances, there will be expected variation of involvement in corruption. Corruption affects everyone, but in a different way.

Wifes and caretakers

       With some exclusions, like Nordic countries, New Zealand, Canada and some more, the world doesn't handle corruption. In some regions, it's more evident, for this reason, we can find many kinds of research about the connection between gender and corruption based on Latin American and African experience. Here corruption goes along with gender inequality: women are primary caretakers of the family and often have no access to the family budget. As a result, man and women face corruption in different spheres of life.

       As caretakers, women may pay bribes in hospitals, courts, education centres while men are more likely to pay the police and higher officials. A different approach and understanding of social problems affect the way of policy enactment. Representation of women in parliament and decision-making positions does magic - they focus on problems which hit females more sharply (health services, education, equal legal status).

      Male and female approach to politics balance each other and show better results in decreasing poverty. For how long it lasts is a question, but gender equality significantly increases the power of human resources which stabilize the economy. And still, nothing proves any altruistic motives of women when they come to politics - gender balance just helps redirect the money to problematic questions.

Are men not afraid to steal?

    It depends on the man, of course. The general truth is that they are not as afraid to steal as women are. Risk aversion is more important for women and is reflected in their cautious behaviour. In real-life situations, men will be more likely to offer or accept a bribe, even having a fear to be caught. And the bad news: women will be equally corrupt if they are aware of the absence of threats. 

     Whom would you choose as a partner in money laundering: man or woman? The man is better, studies suggest. The reason is men higher tendency to reciprocate and do it with bribes of higher value, the opposite to women (and a possible explanation can be different social roles). Still, it's worth to remember that it doesn't universally apply to all countries.

    A logical assumption regarding countries with a long history of corruption is that there is no big difference between genders in their attitude to bribery. People adapt, and women tolerance to corruption in India is near to the tolerance of men. That's why there is reasonable doubt regarding gender equality as a solution for corruption - women may start to steal when they know how to. 


      We may believe one thing, but facts point to another one. Even though the link between women, corruption and influence on corruption with the help of gender equality is more than ambiguous, some common opinions we can disprove right now. Ready?

Our sources:

TI Topic Guide on Gender and Corruption
Esarey, Justin & Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., 2018. "Women's Representation, Accountability and Corruption in Democracies"
UN Poverty 2015 Statistics
Gender Equality Worldwide by Spiegel
Case Studies on Gender and Corruption by Lena Wängnerud
Gender and Corruption by Sida
Gender and corruption in business by MRPA
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