You’ve heard the phrase “men are from Mars, women are from Venus?” The phrase originally came to popularity following the release of a book by that title, from John Gray, a relationship counselor. The book went on to sell more than 50 million copies, and is largely considered to be one of the best-ranked non-fiction works of the 1990s. The work asserts that the differences between men that lead to relationship problems result from psychological differences in the two genders. As the phrase and title of his book would imply – men and women are from two different planets. For this reason – some assert that corporate white-collar crime can be driven by different psychological traits in men and women. Although corporate crime is largely a man’s world – there is still a significant amount of corporate crime committed by women.

Does Gender Make Any Difference?

Gender does make a significant difference in several key areas. While both men and women offenders may possess similar traits, white collar crime is disproportionately committed by men. In a study by Penn State University (Steffensmeier, Schwartz, Roche, 2013) they found some interested figures;

  • Only 37 of 436 defendants in federal corporate fraud cases between 2002 and 2009 were women. This is less than 10 percent of the total.

  • Only 3 women were identified as “ringleaders” in fraud investigations. There were more than 156 men. Of those three women, only one was not married to someone who was also identified as a ringleader.

  • 56% of women offenders did not personally gain from fraud. A larger portion of women committed fraud to help friends, or misguidedly help their organization.

So while women do commit white collar crime, they certainly are much less likely to do so than men. In that sense, gender does make a difference when creating an offenders profile. The Penn State University study also showed that women are less likely to be ringleaders of fraud scams, and are more likely to work with other individuals rather than alone. This could suggest the likelihood increasing with outside influence.

Current Trends by ACFE

The Association of Certified Fraud regularly publishes updated statistics regarding white collar crime and fraud. Their findings on gender provide interesting results;

  • Men are nearly twice as likely to commit white collar crime. In studies conducted in 2008, 2010 and 2012, the percentage of perpetrators for males hovered between 59.1% and 66.7%. The percentages for women were between 33.3% and 40.9% during that time span.

  • These ratio can shift, depending upon the region. In some regions, women are more likely to commit fraud than in others. In Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, males are 75% or more likely to commit fraud.

  • Canada has more female offenders than male. Although a small sample size of only 58 cases could be to blame, in 2012 Canada’s fraud cases were perpetrated by women 51.9% of the time.

  • Women are likely to take less when committing fraud. The median loss for males was $200,000. The median loss for females was $91,000.

Behavior is Key

Just like with men, profiling women should depend more upon behavior than any other trait. Gender doesn’t effect the psychological reasons behind fraud, although it may make one more likely to commit than they other. Both men and women committing crimes are driven by psychopathic behavior, display some level of narcissism and entitlement, and are looking for gratification and excitement.

Narcissism and entitlement can be seen in nearly any female-lead fraud case. One prominent example is 27-year-old Rashia Wilson, who was convicted of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and other charges. She took more than $20 million from the IRS before being caught. She would later go about flaunting her illegally obtained millions online – even boasting about it over social media;

‘I’m Rashia, the queen of IRS tax fraud. I’m a millionaire for the record, so if U think indicting me will B easy it won’t, I promise you,” she wrote on her social media account following her first interactions with police.

Throughout the process she took to social media to flaunt her money and doubt whether investigators would be able to convict her, both of which were certainly narcissistic actions. Is her story really all that different from the real-life version of Wolf of Wall Street?

The need for gratification and entitlement can be seen in Britain’s biggest female fraud case of all time. Joyti De-Laurey, who worked as a secretary at Goldman Sachs, admitted to pocketing more than £4.3 million from her bosses between the years of 1998 and 2002. She would later go on to admit that she committed the crime because she “wanted to spend,” and “it was fun.” In an interview she would state that she had “affection” for her former self because of how daring the entire stunt was.  A need for excitement certainly played a role in her actions.

The criminal may display a lack of accountability, or rationalization for their actions. They may exploit institutional, financial, or oversight weaknesses in order to commit the fraud. They may seek power, and choose power and control over self-discipline.

Where Does the Difference Come In Between Men and Women?

Essentially while women are less likely to commit fraud, they still commit the crime for many of the same psychological reasons. While most expected women to be more commonly seen in corporate crimes as they achieved equality, that has not been observed in the data thus far. Some have suggested that placing more women in executive leadership positions could in fact raise ethical standards and cut down on corporate fraud and other crimes. Women are less likely to commit fraud for personal gain, and are often influenced by outside sources – whether it is at the behest of another fraudster, covering for another individuals mistakes, or simply misguidedly trying to help their company or organization.