130915_Rosario_GenderCorporateCrime 2013 by twincities


         American http://asr.sagepub.com/ Review

Gender and Twenty-First-Century Corporate Crime: Female Involvement and the
               Gender Gap in Enron-Era Corporate Frauds
            Darrell J. Steffensmeier, Jennifer Schwartz and Michael Roche
   American Sociological Review 2013 78: 448 originally published online 19 April 2013
                            DOI: 10.1177/0003122413484150

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         ASRXXX10.1177/0003122413484150American Sociological ReviewSteffensmeier et al.

                                                                                                                                                                American Sociological Review

                                               Gender and Twenty-First-                                                                                         78(3) 448–476
                                                                                                                                                                © American Sociological
                                                                                                                                                                Association 2013
                                               Century Corporate Crime:                                                                                         DOI: 10.1177/0003122413484150

                                               Female Involvement and the
                                               Gender Gap in Enron-Era
                                               Corporate Frauds

                                               Darrell J. Steffensmeier,a Jennifer Schwartz,b
                                               and Michael Rochea

                                               We extend the scarce research on corporate crime to include gender by developing and testing
                                               a gendered focal concerns and crime opportunities framework that predicts minimal and
                                               marginal female involvement in corporate criminal networks. Lacking centralized information,
                                               we developed a rich database covering 83 corporate frauds involving 436 defendants. We
                                               extracted information from indictments and secondary sources on corporate conspiracy
                                               networks (e.g., co-conspirator roles, company positions, and distribution of profit). Findings
                                               support the gendered paradigm. Typically, women were not part of conspiracy groups. When
                                               women were involved, they had more minor roles and made less profit than their male co-
                                               conspirators. Two main pathways defined female involvement: relational (close personal
                                               relationship with a main male co-conspirator) and utility (occupied a financial-gateway
                                               corporate position). Paralleling gendered labor market segmentation processes that limit
                                               and shape women’s entry into economic roles, sex segregation in corporate criminality is
                                               pervasive, suggesting only subtle shifts in gender socialization and women’s opportunities for
                                               significant white-collar crimes. Our findings do not comport with images of highly placed or
                                               powerful white-collar female criminals.

                                               criminology, white-collar crime, gender, occupations, sex stratification, economy

                                              Some economists and sociologists have con-                                          spurred by his revulsion with elites whose
                                              cluded that fraudulent schemes and corporate                                        financial manipulations caused the 1929 stock
                                              corruption scandals played key roles in the                                         market crash and 1930s Depression, challenged
                                              onset and in determining the severity of the past                                   sociologists to study white-collar crime as a
                                              three economic recessions in the United States
                                              (July 1990, March 2001, and the Great Reces-                                        a
                                                                                                                                   The Pennsylvania State University
                                              sion that began in December 2007) (Akerloff                                         b
                                                                                                                                   Washington State University
                                              and Shiller 2009). Upper-level criminality is
                                              now of great interest because of its apparent                                       Corresponding Author:
                                                                                                                                  Darrell J. Steffensmeier, Department of Sociology,
                                              growth in corporate America today and its per-                                      The Pennsylvania State University, 1016 Oswald
                                              ceived harmful and far-reaching consequences.                                       Tower, University Park, PA 16802-1690
                                              Yet more than 70 years ago, Sutherland (1940),                                      E-mail: d4s@psu.edu

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                        449

serious social problem and an important reflec-                 difficult. Our analysis is based on a unique
tion of social stratification.                                  dataset collected from a repository of indict-
    We extend recent empirical examinations                     ments involving significant corporate fraud
of white-collar crime (see reviews in Benson                    prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Jus-
and Simpson 2009; Geis 2007) by examining                       tice’s (DOJ) Corporate Fraud Task Force
gender differences in corporate financial                       (CFTF). Formed in the aftermath of the Enron
scandals of the late-twentieth and early-                       and Worldcom financial collapses, the CFTF
twenty-first centuries. Our study intersects                    placed special emphasis on prosecuting high-
several major sociological areas of interest                    level corporate officials for executing or sanc-
(e.g., economy and society, work/organizations,                 tioning major financial schemes (U.S. DOJ
and law/criminology) but contributes particu-                   2003). Frauds characterizing the Enron era
larly to the broad and rising interest across                   mostly involved accounting malpractices to
sociology in gender stratification. Gender                      obtain business or personal advantage, includ-
scholars, and those studying work and organ-                    ing false statements of corporate assets and
izations, have been concerned with implica-                     profits (i.e., securities fraud). By extracting
tions of women’s changing involvement in                        information from indictments and secondary
corporate America. Some empirical research                      sources, we developed a database that covers
exists on women’s and men’s similarities and                    83 corporate frauds involving 436 corporate
differences in occupational fraud and                           offenders; this database is one of the largest
employee theft (Daly 1989; Franklin 1979;                       records of mid- and upper-level corporate
Holtfreter 2005; Zeitz 1981), but to our                        officials and includes recent twenty-first-
knowledge no studies have addressed female                      century cases. Also unique to our database,
involvement and gender differences in corpo-                    we collected rich details about conspiracies
rate crime. We explore serious corporate                        and offenders, including a defendant’s role in
crime: accounting schemes to deceive audi-                      the crime, company position, extent of self-
tors and analysts about a corporation’s true                    profit from a scheme, and relationships
financial condition, Ponzi schemes, and                         among co-defendants.1
insider trading fraud involving large sums of                      As our findings show, the kinds of finan-
money and financial loss.                                       cial fraud and offender characteristics repre-
    We further develop Steffensmeier and                        sented in the CFTF are consistent with what
Allan’s (1996) gendered paradigm of crimi-                      corporate crime scholars describe as corpo-
nality by drawing on literatures in criminol-                   rate or business crime, organizational crime,
ogy, gender stratification, and work and                        and elite deviance; with Sutherland’s (1940)
occupations to highlight linkages between                       conceptualization of white-collar crime (high
underworld (organized crime groups and                          status and respectability); and with popular
street-crime networks) and upperworld (legit-                   images of offenders colorfully labeled in the
imate organizations) sex-typing and exclu-                      media as “pigs at the trough,” “Wall Street fat
sionary practices that minimize and                             cats,” “looters in loafers,” or what in 1907
marginalize women’s participation in higher                     sociologist Ross described as the “criminal-
echelons of criminal and legitimate organiza-                   oid businessman.”
tions and networks. In considering how gen-                        The intriguing question we address is
dered focal concerns and gendered crime                         whether at the onset of the twenty-first cen-
opportunities shape women’s and men’s roles                     tury, looters are gender-neutral or gender-
and involvement in white-collar crime, we                       specific (i.e., mostly men). In light of some
provide a theoretical framework for anticipat-                  monumental changes in gender roles and
ing women’s underrepresentation and mar-                        organization of gender in recent decades,
ginalization in corporate criminality.                          most notably the large growth in women’s
    No central data source exists on corporate                  labor force participation and representation in
crime offenders and collection of such data is                  management and professions, one might

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450                                                                           American Sociological Review 78(3)

expect near parity between the sexes in cor-                     used other data to consider gender differences
porate crime. But, as we theorize and as our                     in occupational fraud or theft (e.g., Daly
analysis shows, gendered processes remain                        1989; Holtfreter 2005; Klenowski, Copes,
salient influences on women’s involvement in                     and Mullins 2010; Zeitz 1981), but virtually
major financial crimes.2                                         no research focuses on gender differences in
                                                                 corporate fraud.
                                                                     The best known exploration to-date of
PERSPECTIVES ON THE                                              gender and white-collar financial crime,
GENDER–CORPORATE CRIME                                           broadly defined, is Daly’s (1989) empirical
RELATIONSHIP                                                     study that included 1,342 offenders convicted
                                                                 of any fraud or nonviolent economic crime
An early and entrenched perspective on gen-                      from 1976 to 1978 in seven U.S. federal dis-
der and white-collar crime is that women’s                       trict courts. Her results show that women’s
advancement into the labor market and                            participation in white-collar crime was low—
upward mobility have considerably reduced                        less than 5 percent of offenders convicted of
or eliminated gender differences in white-                       significant organizational or corporate crimes
collar and corporate criminality (Dodge 2009;                    (antitrust, bribery, and securities fraud) and
Simon and Ahn-Reading [1976] 2005). This                         only 14 percent of all offenders in Daly’s
perspective contends that women are no more                      sample. Women’s presence was greatest
moral than men, so any gender differences in                     among bank embezzlers—near parity with
corporate or serious white-collar crime                          men. Many were tellers and stole funds by
involvement are due to differences in oppor-                     manipulating accounts or taking cash. Accord-
tunity stemming from variable access to                          ing to Daly (1989), the relatively high num-
higher positions in the labor force. Select                      bers of women convicted for occupational
media cases of women’s major frauds (e.g.,                       fraud like embezzlement was due partly to
Martha Stewart) and interpreting female                          their jobs having a higher degree of surveil-
arrests for fraud, forgery, and embezzlement                     lance than men’s, especially in banks or other
(FFE) as typifying occupation-related crimes                     workplaces that have regular audits of finan-
by executives, managers, and professionals                       cial transactions. Many women were unem-
may lead one to conclude that women are                          ployed, and most employed women were
using newly available opportunities to com-                      clerical workers or in low-ranking positions.
mit white-collar crimes at a level and in a                      Finally, women profited less than men and
manner similar to men (Dodge 2009; Simon                         espoused more family-based reasons for their
and Ahn-Redding [1976] 2005).                                    crimes, whereas men gave more personal
   However, we share others’ caution that the                    financial reasons.
typical FFE arrest, rather than for occupa-                          More recent research, albeit scarce, sup-
tional or corporate offending, is for more                       ports Daly’s main finding that women’s
mundane fraud (e.g., bad checks, credit card                     involvement is higher for some types of occu-
or benefit fraud) and embezzlement involving                     pational fraud, such as fraud in which employ-
persons in low-ranking financial or service                      ees act alone, but much smaller for other
positions (Daly 1989; Steffensmeier 1989),                       types of fraud, such as tax and securities
reflecting traditional rather than new role pat-                 frauds that often involve executives or man-
terns for women. Arrest data, one of the few                     agers acting in collusion. For example, Holt-
systematic sources on fraud and embezzle-                        freter’s (2005) study of occupational frauds
ment, mainly record low-profit, less complex                     reported in surveys by the Association of
financial schemes, stretching definitions of                     Certified Fraud Examiners showed nearly
white-collar crime and failing to capture the                    gender-equal commission of asset-misappro-
breadth and diversity of serious economic and                    priation (e.g., embezzlement), typically by
corporate financial crimes. A few studies have                   low-ranking employees and those without

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                         451

college degrees. In contrast, fraudulent state-                      We illuminate central tenets of the gen-
ments were made mainly by men (70 per-                           dered paradigm and apply its schema to a
cent), by those in management, and involved                      quintessentially serious form of white-collar
collusion.                                                       crime, drawing on (1) sociological and femi-
    Qualitative female-male differences in                       nist work on the organization of gender; (2)
white-collar offending exist as well, which                      research on women in organizations, work
suggests more than mere job-access differ-                       and occupations, and business enterprise; and
ences account for variation in women’s white-                    (3) studies in criminology on gendered pat-
collar crime. Zeitz (1981) and, more recently,                   terns of offending, crime groups, and white-
Klenowski and colleagues (2011) identify dif-                    collar crime. We extend the paradigm to more
ferences in motives and justifications for                       thoroughly consider male focal concerns sur-
occupational thefts, frauds, and embezzle-                       rounding masculinity, which increase antiso-
ments in accordance with gendered cultural                       cial behavior, as well as female femininity
expectations (see also Daly 1989). A growing                     concerns that increase prosocial, altruistic
body of gender and crime research shows                          responses by women. We also elaborate on
male networks dominate joint criminal ven-                       nuances of the gendered paradigm’s concep-
tures, providing women marginal or periph-                       tualization of criminal opportunity, incorpo-
eral opportunities for involvement in group                      rating an understanding of sex-segregation in
crimes (Maher 1997; Miller 2001; Steffens-                       economically driven crime networks (Stef-
meier 1983; Steffensmeier and Terry 1986;                        fensmeier 1983; Steffensmeier and Terry
Zhang, Chin, and Miller 2007); illicit oppor-                    1986). Using work and occupations and crim-
tunities may be gender-stratified.                               inology literatures, we draw parallels between
    We develop an empirically informed theo-                     gender dynamics in the underworld and the
retical framework that emphasizes (1) the                        upperworld that minimize and marginalize
enduring role of gendered focal concerns and                     women’s participation in corporate crime.
socialization and (2) the gendered nature of
opportunity, leading to hypotheses about gen-
                                                                 Gendered Focal Concerns and Risk
der differences in white-collar corporate crime.
                                                                 Gender differences in orientations toward
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK:                                           crime stem largely from different focal con-
GENDERED FOCAL CONCERNS                                          cerns ascribed to women and men. Norms
AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR                                            disapproving of female deviance and crime
CORPORATE CRIME                                                  originate from two focal concerns ascribed to
                                                                 women: (1) nurturant role obligations encour-
Our position draws on and offers a partial test                  aging the centrality of social relationships and
of Steffensmeier and Allan’s (1996) gendered                     cooperative, communalistic orientations and
paradigm of female offending. This inte-                         (2) female beauty and sexual/moral virtue.
grated theory of gender and offending                            These focal concerns also contribute to a
employs traditional and feminist crime theo-                     derived, or secondary, identity in which
ries to explain the gender gap and contextual                    female status or identity is linked to key men
similarities and differences in female and                       in women’s lives (e.g., father or husband) and
male offending. The key focus is on how the                      to accommodating their prerogatives. On the
organization of gender—norms, focal con-                         other hand, the lesser taboos against male
cerns, moral development, social control, and                    crime stem largely from focal concerns
affiliative tendencies, as well as physical dif-                 ascribed to men: (1) individualistic orienta-
ferences—shapes (1) risk preferences and                         tions stressing autonomy and dominance/
motivations for crime and (2) access to crimi-                   control; (2) status/achievement in the public
nal opportunity.                                                 sphere combined with provider and protector

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452                                                                            American Sociological Review 78(3)

role obligations in the private sphere encour-                    responses to stress. For women, the centrality of
aging competitiveness, decisiveness, and                          relational concerns shapes their law-violating
risk-taking; and (3) sexual access to and suc-                    behavior and allows the men in their lives to
cess with women. These focal concerns func-                       pull them into criminal involvement. Women
tion as overarching cognitive schemas that                        are not less amenable to risk; rather, their
shape gender ideologies, identities, and action                   risk-taking is less likely to violate the law and
and contribute to gender differences in moral                     more likely to be protective of emotional
orientations, individual and collective iden-                     commitments. Women may take greater risks
tity, risk preferences, and femininity and                        to establish or sustain valued relationships,
masculinity imperatives. Gendered focal con-                      whereas men take greater risks for status,
cerns also shape social interactions (i.e.,                       power, monetary gain, or competitive advan-
doing gender) by guiding expectations and                         tage. Key to the present analysis, gendered
appraisals of others and self with regard to                      focal concerns and risk preferences are repro-
risk-taking       and    criminal       behavior.                 duced in corporate organizational settings and
Behaviors—and potential behaviors—are                             work networks in ways that affect female
accountable to and assessed by sex category.                      involvement and gender differences in white-
    Restraining women from seriously injurious                    collar crime.
criminal behavior and shaping their involve-                         First, research on work/occupations and
ment in it, women are socialized to an ethic of                   business enterprise suggests women generally
care—to be more responsive to others’ needs                       adhere to a different way of doing business that
and to fear separation from loved ones (Eng-                      carries a sense of connectedness and brings a
land 2005; Gilligan 1982). Concern for others                     more ethical perspective to the workplace
also manifests in women’s greater reluctance to                   (Beutel and Marini 1995; Kodinsky et al.
engage in behaviors that are clearly harmful to                   2010; Loe, Ferrell, and Mansfield 2000). Cor-
other people. Overall, feminine cooperative                       porate women, more than corporate men, use
behavior runs counter to law-breaking. Men, on                    their organizational power to address issues of
the other hand, are conditioned toward status-                    social responsibility and are more inclined to
seeking and socialized to be more independent                     make people, not just profits, a priority (Jaffee
and competitive. The separation between what                      and Hyde 2000; Lesch 2011; O’Fallon and
is feminine and what is criminal is sharp,                        Butterfield 2005). Female executives tend to
whereas the dividing line between what is mas-                    score more positively on measures of sociali-
culine and what is illegal is often thin. Although                zation, self-control, empathy, social involve-
male sex role norms do not prescribe crime,                       ment, and integrity (Collins 1999). Women’s
risk-taking and defying social convention are                     ethical orientations thus hedge against involve-
qualities more admired in men than in women.                      ment in white-collar crime and act as a deter-
By extension, men find it easier than women to                    rent to corporate wrongdoing.
justify illegal wrongdoing because law-violating                     Second, research on entrepreneurship and
behavior, especially for status-seeking or finan-                 management styles finds that women are more
cial reasons, is more compatible with male                        risk-averse in business ventures, whereas men
focal concerns. Stereotypically masculine qual-                   are more inclined toward strategic, proactive
ities align not only with committing business                     risk-taking and aggressive implementation of
fraud, but also with actions that might precipi-                  bold strategies in the face of uncertainty
tate fraud, such as engaging in risky financial                   (Byrnes, Miller, and Schafer 1999; O’Fallon
ventures or bad business deals and gambling,                      and Butterfield 2005). Masculine focal con-
drinking, or sexual affairs.                                      cerns emphasizing competition and achieve-
    Gendered focal concerns influence moti-                       ment at all costs may “propel more men than
vational and contextual differences in crime                      women who are in middle and managerial
by contributing to gender-specific risk prefer-                   ranks to become involved in corporate crime”
ences and risk-taking styles and gendered                         (Daly 1989:772). This is especially likely in

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                          453

masculine environments and criminal coali-                            Hypothesis 1: Women’s corporate
tions where men’s risk-taking propensities                            crime involvement will be much lower
exacerbate one another.                                               than men’s involvement.
   Third, research on stress and mental health
finds that men are more focused on material                           Hypothesis 2: Women’s economic gains
goals, more vulnerable to financial strain and                        from corporate crime will be less than
loss of status, and more likely to use criminal                       men’s fraudulent economic gains.
coping strategies in response to strain,
whereas women are more concerned with
                                                                 Gendered Crime Opportunities:
personal relationships and gender-based dis-
                                                                 Exclusionary Network Practices
crimination, more vulnerable to interpersonal
and family-related strains, and more likely to                   The group nature of most corporate schemes,
use less deviant coping strategies (e.g., pre-                   which involve collusion or conspiracy, is often
scription drugs) (Broidy and Agnew 1997).                        ignored in the literature on the female employ-
Gaining and protecting privileged status, eco-                   ment–crime relationship. Two distinct oppor-
nomic power, and wealth may thus motivate                        tunity structures exist for women’s corporate
men more than women to use illegal means.                        crime involvement—one element involves
Women who commit business-related frauds                         being suitably located or situationally available
like embezzlement tend to do so (or rational-                    for participation in a scheme (opportunity via
ize it) to protect their families or valued rela-                job access) and the second requires being suit-
tionships, whereas men tend to embezzle to                       ably defined or recruited to participate in the
protect their status as successful business-                     activity by those running the scheme (opportu-
men, rationalizing their crimes as stemming                      nity via network access). Organizational sex
from “normal business practices” (Cressey                        segregation literature suggests that even when
1953; Zeitz 1981). Despite enculturation into                    women occupy higher-level organizational
a male-dominated business environment,                           positions, exclusionary practices limit their
female executives, in general, feel more guilt                   involvement in predominantly male informal
and find it more difficult to rationalize                        networks at work (Gorman and Kmec 2009;
involvement in business-related frauds than                      Kanter 1977). Crime research also documents
do their male counterparts.                                      sex-segregated practices that limit and shape
   Fourth, research on business crime and                        women’s involvement in underworld crime
occupational deviance finds that even when                       groups (Maher 1997; Miller 2001;
similar on-the-job theft or fraud opportunities                  Steffensmeier 1983; Steffensmeier and Terry
exist, women still are less likely to commit                     1986; Zhang et al. 2007). We will discuss how
crime (Franklin 1979; Levi 1994) and, when                       these two selection-exclusion processes restrict
they do, their crimes tend to yield lower gains                  and shape women’s participation in corporate
(Daly 1989; Franklin 1979). Along with dif-                      crime networks.
ferences in moral orientations and risk-taking,
men and women may also differ in how they
                                                                 Opportunity via Job Incumbency
view opportunities for corporate fraud,
because women who move into top manage-                          Statistics suggest women’s opportunities to
ment positions may be deterred by their                          commit corporate crimes as top executives
unique placement and sense they are watched                      remain limited; however, their opportunities
more carefully than men in those positions                       for corporate crime as mid-level managers
(Benson and Simpson 2009).                                       and supervisors have markedly increased
   Based on gendered focal concerns and pre-                     (Catalyst 2011). Only basic information is
vious crime/deviance and work/occupations                        available on the distribution of women in the
research, we expect the following:                               workforce at varying levels of management

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454                                                                          American Sociological Review 78(3)

or professional positions, but broad-based                      domination in the underworld—and in the
Census Bureau surveys indicate that women                       upperworld—are perpetuated, particularly in
today (1) are about as likely as men to be in                   more lucrative, high-risk arenas (Steffens-
the paid workforce and (2) are strongly repre-                  meier 1983; Steffensmeier and Terry 1986).
sented in corporate America in mid-level                        Sex shapes opportunities for developing legit-
roles. Women are about three-quarters of all                    imate and illegitimate social networks within
financial workers; occupy one-half of all                       organizations and alliances; this lessens
managerial, administrative, and professional                    women’s opportunities to form the strong
positions; are the majority of technical and                    networks and develop the trust among busi-
clerical white-collar workers; and are about                    ness associates that facilitate collusion to
half of all accountants, many as corporate                      carry out and cover up complex corporate
professionals (Huffman, Cohen, and Pearlman                     schemes.
2010). However, case studies of Fortune 500                         The rich and growing literature on men’s
companies find women comprise only about                        sexism toward women in economically driven
15 percent of senior executive positions                        crime networks (e.g., Maher 1997; Miller
(Catalyst 2011). It seems the number of                         2001; Zhang et al. 2007) supports Steffens-
women occupying the highest corporate posi-                     meier and Ulmer’s (2005:221) assertion:
tions remains low, but we lack comparable                       “Sex-segregation in the underworld . . .
data for the thousands of public and private                    powerful[ly] inhibits [women’s] access to
U.S. corporations.                                              illicit-business work roles and in large part . . .
   Available evidence also suggests that mid-                   forecloses their participation as high-level
level officials are as likely as top management                 operators.” Among men involved in illicit
to be involved in corporate wrongdoing and                      pursuits, women are seen as less likely to
targeted for prosecution (Clinard and Yeager                    have criminal capital or valued traits and
2006). Mid-level officials have considerable                    competencies, such as trustworthiness, crimi-
decision-making autonomy regarding invest-                      nal capabilities, nerve to carry out a scheme,
ment, pricing, marketing, and production and                    worthwhile social connections, and the mettle
they direct staff to carry out top-management’s                 or ambition to profit highly (Steffensmeier
objectives. Opportunities for white-collar                      and Terry 1986). Not only are women less
crime via professional and managerial position                  likely to be recruited into corporate conspira-
may thus be near equal for women and men.                       cies, they are less able to recruit others should
                                                                they wish to orchestrate an illegal scheme.
   Hypothesis 3: Women involved in cor-                             However, women will not be excluded
   porate crime are more likely than their                      entirely and some women undoubtedly play
   male counterparts to be in low-ranking                       central roles in corporate conspiracies. Many
   corporate positions.                                         underworld operators, while professing a
                                                                preference not to work with females, some-
   Linkages between underworld and upper-                       times do so. Men are more likely to commit
world processes of institutional sexism and                     crimes with a woman when (1) a romantic or
homosocial reproduction exclude women                           close personal relationship exists, (2) an
from male work networks, including net-                         exceptional woman has carved out a niche in
works that carry out conspiracies, and restrict                 the underworld, or (3) there is utility in
criminally involved women to sex-typed                          deploying a woman for safety or profitability,
roles. Institutional sexism—rules, prejudices,                  such as when women create less suspicion,
and stereotypes associated with gender, race,                   have access to helpful information or special-
or other social characteristics—helps or hin-                   ized skills, attract a more willing or less fear-
ders a person’s potential enactment of various                  ful clientele, or prevent missing out on a good
social roles. Through homosocial reproduc-                      opportunity when male accomplices are not
tion, or “like chooses like,” sexism and male                   available.

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                       455

   Hypothesis 4: In comparison to their                             We supplemented our core database and
   male counterparts, women involved in                          reduced missing data by gathering additional
   corporate crime tend to play marginal                         case information about companies or defend-
   rather than central roles.                                    ants in four ways: (1) reviewing annual
                                                                 reports and press releases issued by the DOJ
   Hypothesis 5: Women involved in cor-                          about specific cases; (2) consulting publica-
   porate crime will demonstrate a ten-                          tions like company quarterly reports filed
   dency toward romantic affiliations with                       with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Com-
   male co-offenders.                                            mission (SEC) and Hoover’s or Dun & Brad-
                                                                 street for company information like size and
   Hypothesis 6: Women involved in cor-                          industry sector; (3) obtaining Federal Bureau
   porate crime will have high utility for                       of Prison information for convicted defend-
   carrying out a fraud due to their strate-                     ants sentenced to incarceration (e.g., age and
   gic company position processing and                           gender); and (4) conducting Internet searches
   reporting financial data.                                     of news archives, government records, and
                                                                 other online sources to acquire more informa-
    Consolidating key themes from our theo-                      tion on defendants’ age, position in company,
retical framework, we expect women’s corpo-                      and role in a scheme.6
rate crime involvement to be much lower and                         Owing to our interest in gender and corpo-
more marginal than men’s involvement                             rate offending, a major undertaking was to
because women may be more averse to risky                        gain added information on all female defend-
financial ventures, abusing positions of organ-                  ants on the nature and circumstances sur-
izational power, and winning-at-all-costs in                     rounding their involvement in corporate
economic matters. Furthermore, women may                         conspiracies. Newspaper, magazine, and jour-
hold fewer top-level corporate positions that                    nal articles on a case (e.g., based on court-
are conducive to illegal collusion and they                      room testimony or investigative reporting)
may be excluded by male colleagues from                          and documents from federal enforcement
crime groups and unable to recruit suitable                      agencies (SEC, IRS), such as follow-up civil
partners to direct a conspiracy.3                                complaints against a company, were useful
                                                                 electronic sources. Based on the information
                                                                 elicited, we coded several characteristics of
DATA AND METHODS                                                 women and their participation in corporate
Our analysis makes use of an online repository of                fraud. We divided key concepts and their
major indictments initiated by the Corporate                     measurement into company and offense char-
Fraud Task Force (CFTF) in the wake of the                       acteristics, then defendant characteristics.
Enron scandal, covering cases from July 2002
through 2009, with most occurring between 2003
                                                                 Company and Offense Characteristics
and 2006. Each case in our analysis involved one
or more indictments and provided information on                  Company size, measured as number of
specific defendants, company characteristics, the                employees on payroll, is based on SEC
alleged scheme, and charges. In total, our analy-                reports filed by individual companies. We
ses include 83 cases of corporate fraud involving                used the quarterly report immediately prior to
436 defendants (corporations and the number and                  an indictment’s filing. We coded industry sec-
sex of indicted defendants are listed in Table A1                tor of CFTF companies according to the 2002
in the Appendix).4 Official indictments allowed                  North American Industry Classification
for multiple levels of analysis. We developed a                  System based on company profiles of primary
systematic coding scheme to quantify character-                  business activities. We describe company size
istics of the (1) company, (2) offense, and (3)                  and industry because of their importance in
defendant.5                                                      prior research on corporate (white-collar)

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456                                                                           American Sociological Review 78(3)

offending (Clinard and Yeager 2006; Simpson                      pronouns) or other sources (e.g., Federal
1986; Wang and Holtfreter 2012).                                 Bureau of Prisons).
    Four categories designate the principal                         We measured age at the time of indict-
offense conduct that formed the legal basis for                  ment. Although not recorded in indictments,
indictment charges.7 Many conspiracies                           we obtained defendant age for most cases
involved additional schemes, but we did not                      from online searches or other sources (e.g.,
code secondary offenses, like insider trading                    Federal Bureau of Prisons).
that occurred as a company faced large stock                        We categorized position in company into
losses or bankruptcy.8 We distinguish between                    four levels according to decision-making
conspiracies committed mainly for business                       responsibility and corporate hierarchy, based
advantage to benefit the company, and                            on descriptions in the indictments and sup-
schemes perpetrated primarily for personal                       plemented by secondary sources (e.g., press
gain. We further subdivided self-dealing for                     reports of court testimony). Because one’s
personal gain into three categories: Insider                     position in a company may change during a
trading is trading in violation of the trust and                 scheme, we coded defendants’ positions when
confidence of investors and the public by                        they became most involved.10 Top manage-
using privileged (non-public) information.                       ment includes the highest level executives
Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud involv-                      (e.g., president/chairman, chief executive
ing payment of returns to existing investors                     officer, CEO; chief financial officer, CFO;
using funds solicited from new investors,                        chief operating officer, COO; and secretary/
while skimming off funds for personal use.                       treasurer). Upper-level officials are upper-
Looting the company involves stealing from a                     management positions with vice president in
company by means such as high compensa-                          the title or others directly responsible for
tion, purchase of property or goods for per-                     implementing top-management’s priorities.
sonal use, diverting monies to family, and                       Middle-level officials comprise all other
embezzlement.                                                    lower-level positions within a company.
    We calculated duration of a scheme from                      Associates refer to any other defendant who
the start of the evidential trail used as the                    was neither employed nor affiliated with the
legal basis for establishing probable cause to                   company charged in the indictment or a col-
when an indictment was filed. Many frauds                        luding company.
were likely operative prior to the earliest tan-                    Role in the scheme refers to a defendant’s
gible proof, so this measure reflects minimum                    involvement in instigating, fostering, and
duration.                                                        executing the scheme and is indicative of
    Group size is the number of defendants                       institutionalized sexism to the extent that
named in an indictment as participating in the                   women play marginal roles, controlling for
conspiracy.9 Because a substantial number of                     structural opportunities (corporate position).
indictments identify additional unnamed par-                     Key markers for assignment into one of four
ticipants (“others known and unknown”) who                       levels include number and range of charges,
were not indicted (e.g., due to manpower                         whether a defendant gave or followed orders,
restrictions preventing investigation or                         and whether a defendant instigated or proac-
because they provided evidence against top                       tively developed procedures to implement the
conspirators), this measure reflects the mini-                   scheme or cover it up versus reactively fol-
mum number of co-conspirators.                                   lowed policy directives from superiors. Lev-
                                                                 els of involvement are the following:
                                                                 ringleaders initiated or orchestrated a scheme
Offender Characteristics
                                                                 or played a primary leadership role; major
We coded gender using an indicted defen-                         players proactively furthered a scheme but
dant’s name. For androgynous or unfamiliar                       did not initiate or orchestrate it; in-between
names, we used textual clues (e.g., gender                       players executed part of a scheme or its

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                        457

cover-up as directed or encouraged by a supe-                     that we do not know the extent of corporate
rior but with some diligence or inventiveness                     fraud underreporting or how CFTF cases dif-
once involved; and minor participants were                        fer from cases in which no legal action was
mostly reactive, acting at the behest of a supe-                  taken (Simpson 1986). CFTF cases likely
rior or in some minor capacity, such as fol-                      represent more harmful or longer-running
lowing orders or acting in other complicit                        schemes and the most centrally involved
ways.                                                             defendants. Caution is also advised in gener-
    Based on our in-depth electronic informa-                     alizing beyond the kinds of fraudulent
tion search on women, we categorized four                         accounting schemes represented in the CFTF.
attributes reflecting important dimensions of                     More central to our analysis, however, are
the gendered paradigm and institutionalized                       between-sex differences in the production of
sexism: utility for the scheme, male affilia-                     official data. Available research generally
tion, self-profit relative to co-conspirators,                    shows that sex distributions in official data
and culpability. We assessed utility for the                      (e.g., arrests, indictments, and convictions)
conspiracy based on whether a woman’s                             generally match comparable unofficial esti-
involvement was strategic or instrumental for                     mates, particularly for more serious offenses
carrying out the conspiracy because of her                        (see review in Schwartz, Steffensmeier, and
duties within the company, such as serving as                     Feldmeyer 2009). Although obviously prob-
a conduit or gateway for processing informa-                      lematic for estimating absolute levels of cor-
tion (e.g., recording financial transactions or                   porate crime (whether for females or males),
submitting revenue or compliance reports),                        CFTF indictment data likely provide reason-
implementing or administering payroll, or                         ably robust indicators of relative differences
communicating with external organizations                         between the sexes in involvement in serious
or agencies (e.g., auditors, regulatory agen-                     corporate financial fraud.
cies, or rating agencies). Key here is the ease
versus difficulty with which a conspiracy’s
chief operatives can bypass this defendant                        FINDINGS
because of her position or expertise in the                       To characterize major twenty-first-century
company.11 Male affiliation records whether a                     corporate crimes, we describe companies,
woman was personally connected to a male                          conspiracy groups, and individuals involved
co-conspirator, such as being a spouse or                         in these frauds (Table 1). To delineate the
through a close boss-employee relationship                        extent and nature of women’s involvement,
(e.g., a longtime assistant). Self-profit relative                we use several approaches: descriptive
to same-company co-conspirators indicates                         (Table 2), regression that probes for institu-
whether a woman’s personal profit was                             tionalized sexism by assessing gender differ-
greater, the same as, or less than that of her                    ences in role centrality and financial gain
male co-conspirators. Culpability codes                           (Table 3), and qualitative case studies of
female involvement as falling on a continuum                      female positions and roles in corporate crime
from strongly reactive to strongly proactive in                   groups.
response to inducements or pressures to
engage in a scheme.
                                                                  Case, Company, and Offender
    Like any data source, ours has some
strengths and some caveats. Strengths include
a database that represents twenty-first-century                   Type of conspiracy. The majority of
cases of corporate illegality, contains a sizable                 schemes prosecuted by the CFTF were
number of upper-level white-collar offenders,                     designed to gain business advantage to bene-
and yields considerable information about                         fit the company (69 percent) (see Table 1,
key dimensions of corporate offending and                         which provides an overview of key case,
female involvement. One important caveat is                       company, and offender characteristics for all

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                                                                                   Table 1. Attributes of Corporate Frauds: Offense, Company, and Offender Characteristics

                                                                                   Offense Characteristics (n = 83)                                n                  %      Company Characteristics (n = 83)                                          n                  %

                                                                                     Offense Conduct                                                                          Employees (n = 66)
                                                                                       Company Benefit                                            57                  69        0 to 100 Employees                                                      6                  9
                                                                                       Insider Trading (self-benefit)                              6                   7        101 to 500 Employees                                                   17                 26
                                                                                       Ponzi Scheme (self-benefit)                                 7                   8        501 to 1,000 Employees                                                  9                 14
                                                                                       Looting (self-benefit)                                     13                  16        1,001 to 5,000 Employees                                               12                 18
                                                                                     Financial Loss to Investors (n = 54)                                                       More than 5,000 Employees                                              22                 33
                                                                                       Less than 10 Million                                        7                  13        Employee Mean                                                                  7871
                                                                                       10 Million to 100 Million                                  22                  41        Employee Median                                                                1039
                                                                                       100 Million to 1 Billion                                   17                  31        Employee Range                                                              7 to 77,258
                                                                                       Greater than 1 Billion                                      8                  15      Industry Sector (NAICS)
                                                                                       Financial Loss Average                                          1.22 billion             Professional/Scientific/Technical and Management Services              19                 23
                                                                                       Financial Loss Median                                           100 million              Finance/Insurance, Real Estate, and Healthcare                         19                 23
                                                                                       Financial Loss Range                                      206,000 to 14 billion          Information                                                            12                 14
                                                                                     Offender Group Size                                                                        Manufacturing and Construction                                         16                 19
                                                                                       Solo Offenders                                             14                  17        Wholesale and Retail Trade, Entertainment and                          17                 21
                                                                                       Small Group (2 to 4 offenders)                             36                  43          Accommodations, and Utilities
                                                                                       Medium Group (5 to 7 offenders)                            16                  19      Fortune 500 Status                                                       11                 13
                                                                                       Large Group (8 to 10)                                       9                  11      Region of Company (n = 81)
                                                                                       Extra Large Group (11+)                                     8                  10        East                                                                   31                 38
                                                                                       Group Size Average                                                   5                   Central                                                                15                 19
                                                                                       Group Size Median                                                    4                   West                                                                   35                 43
                                                                                       Group Size Range                                                  1 to 34             Offender Characteristics (n = 436)                                        n                  %
                                                                                     Duration of Scheme                                                                       Age of Offender (at indictment)
                                                                                       0 to 2 Years                                               50                  60        Age Mean                                                                        47
                                                                                       3 to 4 Years                                               13                  16        Age Range                                                                    25 to 81
                                                                                       5 to 6 Years                                                7                   8      Position in Company
                                                                                       7 to 8 Years                                                7                   8        Top Executives                                                        191                 44

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                                                                                       9+ Years                                                    6                   7        Upper-Level Officials                                                 107                 25
                                                                                       Duration Average (years)                                           3.40                  Mid-level Officials                                                   134                 31
                                                                                       Duration Range (years)                                          .083 to 18               Associate                                                               4                  1
                                                                                                                                                                              Defendant Role
                                                                                                                                                                                Ringleader                                                            159                 37
                                                                                                                                                                                Major                                                                 138                 32
                                                                                                                                                                                In-between                                                             96                 22
                                                                                                                                                                                Minor                                                                  43                 10

                                                                                   Note: Industry sector categories are based on North American Industry Classification (NAICS) two-digit sector codes aggregated as follows: 1. Professional, Scientific, and Technical
                                                                                   Services (54); Management of Companies and Enterprises (55); Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services (56). 2. Finance and Insurance (52); Real
                                                                                   Estate and Rental and Leasing (53); Healthcare and Social Assistance (62). 3. Information (51). 4. Manufacturing (31 to 33); Construction (23). 5. Wholesale Trade (42), Retail Trade (44 and
                                                                                   45); Utilities (22); Transportation and Warehousing (48 and 49); Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (71); Accommodation and Food Services (72).
Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                          459

83 cases and 436 offenders in the CFTF data-                    one-third were large corporations with more
base). The remaining 31 percent of financial                    than 5,000 employees. Companies were dis-
frauds were primarily for self-profit: looting                  tributed nearly equally across four of five
the company (16 percent), Ponzi scheme (8                       (aggregated) industry sectors: professional/
percent), or insider trading (7 percent). Even                  scientific/technical and management services
in schemes primarily motivated by business                      (23 percent); finance/insurance and real estate
advantage, many conspirators gained through                     and healthcare (23 percent); information (14
bonuses and other compensation, stock                           percent); manufacturing and construction (19
options, and misuse of corporate property.                      percent); and wholesale and retail trade,
                                                                entertainment and accommodations, and utili-
   Financial loss. Although difficult to                        ties (21 percent). About 13 percent (n = 11)
accurately measure, total investors’ losses                     were Fortune 500 companies. Most prosecu-
were well into the billions across these cases.                 tions took place in the eastern (e.g., New
Select cases alone involved losses of hun-                      York) and western parts (e.g., California) of
dreds of millions of dollars and the majority                   the country, consistent with their regional
of frauds each caused loss in excess of $10                     dominance in the corporate world.
million. Losses ranged from less than $5 mil-
lion (Network Technology Group) to a billion                       Offender characteristics. Corporate con-
or more (e.g., Enron and HealthSouth). Even                     spirators, on average, were in their mid-40s,
more staggering, these figures are underesti-                   considerably older than conventional property
mates because information was sometimes                         offenders, whose average age is mid-20s in
insufficient to fully determine investors’                      arrest statistics. Substantial shares of offenders
losses and other costs were unmeasured (e.g.,                   were top executives (44 percent) or upper-level
more than 5,000 Enron employees lost their                      officials (25 percent), positions of considerable
jobs; loss to investors and workers was esti-                   authority within organizations. A sizable num-
mated at $50 billion).                                          ber of mid-level officials (31 percent) were
                                                                involved, as well as a small number of associ-
   Group size and duration of scheme.                           ates (subsequently collapsed into the mid-level
Group size varied from a single indicted                        category).
defendant (14 cases) to as many as 34 co-                          Among the indicted, the majority played a
conspirators in the Enron indictment. The                       ringleader (37 percent) or major role (32 per-
majority of conspiracies (62 percent) fell in                   cent) in the corporate scheme; few played
the range of two to seven co-conspirators.                      minor roles (10 percent). The high percentage
These small groups probably best represent                      occupying central roles reflects CFTF efforts
defendants who were centrally involved and                      to target those most responsible for fraud. It
most culpable in the fraud but underrepresent                   also shows the necessity of collusion across
those marginally involved.                                      organizational layers of a company or, some-
   The duration of some conspiracies was                        times, across multiple companies in which
short-lived, such as the ImClone and Network                    each company has a ringleader and others
Technology conspiracies that lasted less than                   who played major roles (e.g., Enron).
one year, whereas others endured upward of                         Findings support CFTF claims about tar-
five years, like Enron. The average duration of                 geting powerful high-level officials of major
corporate conspiracy was about three years.                     corporations and pursuing difficult-to-prove,
                                                                complex frauds. Fortune 500 firms were
   Company characteristics. Companies                           prosecuted, victims incurred substantial
in which major corporate frauds occurred                        losses, and many indicted individuals were
were a mix of small, medium, and very large                     high-level executives and conspiracy ring-
corporations. Roughly one-third had 500 or                      leaders. However, findings also substantiate
fewer employees; one-third were moderately                      Clinard and Yeager’s (2006) observation that
sized with 501 to 5,000 employees; and                          corporate crimes involve many mid-level

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460                                                                           American Sociological Review 78(3)

professionals too. And, some prosecuted cases                    prise more than half of all employees. How-
were minor. Targeting top officials and major                    ever, occupational sex-segregation within
players for prosecution was the norm, but less                   industries and corporations also shapes gen-
so for female than for male defendants.                          dered corporate crime opportunities and the
                                                                 nature of female offending.
                                                                     Women’s low involvement notwithstand-
SEX DIFFERENCES: ALL-                                            ing, an important concern is the nature of
MALE VERSUS MIXED-SEX                                            female involvement when they do participate
CORPORATE CRIMES                                                 in corporate conspiracy. Key involvement
                                                                 indicators are a defendant’s position in the
Sex differences in corporate offending are                       company, role in the conspiracy, and extent
evident in the large number of all-male con-                     she profited from the scheme. Two compari-
spiracies but are best assessed by comparing                     sons assess female involvement and gender
women and men in mixed-sex cases. Much                           differences. One, the offender-profile percent-
greater male involvement in corporate crimes                     age, measures the within-sex percentage at
may mask or confound gender differences                          varying levels of a particular case characteris-
such that any tendency by women to play                          tic, clarifying whether the profile of the typi-
leadership roles in mixed-sex frauds might go                    cal female corporate offender differs from the
undetected due to the high total number of                       typical male offender (in all-male and in
men (including as the only solo offenders).                      mixed-sex conspiracy groups) (Table 2, Panel
We thus detail offense and offender profiles                     B). Second, the gender gap is the female-to-
for all-male (column 1, Table 2) corporate                       male percent. This between-sex measure indi-
conspiracies and for men (column 2) and                          cates the size and direction of the sex difference
women (column 3) in mixed-sex conspiracies.                      in mixed-sex groups (Table 2, Panel B).
   Table 2 shows substantial sex differences
across all-male and mixed-sex conspiracy
                                                                 Position in Company
groups (Panel A) and across female and male
defendants (Panel B). Looking at the extent of                   Gender differences in organizational positions
female participation, all-male networks                          held by conspirators are sizeable. In both all-
accounted for nearly three of every four cor-                    male and mixed-sex groups, the majority of
porate conspiracies; mixed-sex networks                          male offenders held a top executive (52 and 41
were under one-third (Table 2, Panel A). We                      percent, respectively) or upper-level corporate
found no cases of all-female conspiracy                          position (26 percent, 22 percent), whereas a
groups and every solo-executed fraud was                         much smaller portion of female conspirators
perpetrated by a male defendant. The large                       were high-ranking officials—only 8 percent of
majority of corporate conspirators were male                     women were in top management and 30 per-
(91 percent); only 9 percent were female                         cent were in upper-level positions (Table 2,
(Table 2, Panel B). Consistent with our first                    Panel B). Instead, most female offenders held
hypothesis, female involvement was mini-                         mid-level positions (62 percent).
mal—the most typical pattern showed women                           Comparing female to male co-conspirators
were not part of the conspiracy at all.                          in mixed-sex groups, as anticipated in Hypoth-
   Supporting our gendered opportunity                           esis 3, the gender gap is substantial across all
framework, all-male conspiracies were more                       corporate levels, but sex differences are larg-
heavily concentrated in professional/scientific/                 est for top- and upper-level positions. Only 4
technical and management services (Table 2,                      percent of top executives in mixed-sex corpo-
Panel A); female employment is lower in                          rate schemes were women. Women’s presence
these industries. Mixed-sex conspiracies were                    in mixed-sex conspiracies was somewhat
more predominant in finance/insurance, real                      greater among mid-level positions (25 per-
estate, and healthcare, where women com-                         cent), where opportunities for corporate crime

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                                461

Table 2. Offense and Male/Female Offender Characteristics; All Male, Males in Mixed-Sex
Groups, and Females in Mixed-Sex Groups

                                    All-Male Groups        Mixed-Sex Groups

Panel A. Offense
Characteristics                        n              %        n               %

Number/Percent of Groups in           59              71      24               29
Offense Conduct
  Company Benefit                     41              70      16               67
  Insider Trading (self-profit)        4               7       2                8
  Ponzi Scheme (self-profit)           3               5       4               17
  Looting (self-profit)               11              19       2                8
Offender Group Size
  Solo Offenders                      14              24       0                0
  Small Groups (2 to 4 offenders)     31              53       5               21
  Medium Groups (5 to 7                7              12       9               38
  Large Groups (8 to 10)               5               8       4               17
  Extra Large Groups (11+)             2               3       6               25
Industry/Sector (NAICS)
  Prof./Scientific/Tech. and          17              29       2                8
     Mgmt Svcs
  Finance/Ins., Real Estate, and       9              15      10               42
  Information                          9              15       3               13
  Manufacturing and                   12              20       4               17
  Wholesale and Retail Trade,         12              20       5               21
     Entertainment and
     Accommodations, and

                                      Male Profile            Male Profile                                  Gender
                                       (All Male)             (Mixed-Sex)           Female Profile           Gap
Panel B. Offender
Characteristics                        n              %        n               %       n               %    % Female

Number/Percent of Indictees in        218             50      181          41          37              9      n/a
Age of Offender
  Mean                                        48                       47                      43             n/a
  Range                                    25 to 81                 27 to 79                27 to 63          n/a
Position in Company
  Top Executives                      114             52       74          41           3               8      4
  Upper-Level Officials                56             26       40          22          11              30     21
  Mid-level Officials and              48             22       67          37          23              62     25
Defendant Role
  Ringleader                          101             46       55          30           3               8      5
  Major                                74             34       57          31           7              19     11
  In-between                           37             17       51          28           8              22     14
  Minor                                 6              3       18          10          19              51     51
Individual Profit
  None/Trivial                         11             10       21          17          20              56     49
  Low, Under $50,000                    8              7        3           2           3               8     50
  Medium, $50,000 to $99,999            2              2        7           6           1               3     13
  High, $100,000 to $499,999           15             13       15          12           6              17     29
  Very High, $500,000 to               40             36       35          29           2               6      7
  More than 1 Million                  36             32       40          33           4              11     10

Note: Gender gap measures the percent female among offenders in mixed-sex groups.
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462                                                                           American Sociological Review 78(3)

may be greatest, but it was still only 8 percent                 than half the women did not self-profit at all
when including all co-conspirators. Criminal                     (56 percent) or benefited very little (8 per-
opportunity due to job incumbency thus does                      cent). Between-sex comparisons show female
not seem to be a sufficient condition for female                 representation was sparse among top illicit-
fraud involvement: these figures are well under                  earners. Fewer than 10 percent of defendants
national benchmarks showing that women are                       with very high illicit profits were female. In
about half of mid-level managers and around 15                   contrast, the gender gap was absent among
percent of top executives.12 Women are greatly                   the lowest earners and non-earners. Women
underrepresented in fraud involvement across                     involved in corporate fraud tend to reap far
all corporate positions; moreover, their under-                  fewer financial benefits than do men.
representation is notably enhanced when all-
male conspiracies are included in comparisons.                      Table 2 shows the much lower presence or
                                                                 near absence of women in these corporate
                                                                 schemes, the relatively minor roles they
Role in a Scheme
                                                                 played in conspiracies, and their much smaller
Broken out by gender, differences in extent of                   financial gains. This suggests a fair amount of
involvement in a scheme are sizeable. Within-                    institutional sexism in corporate criminal
sex comparisons show the large majority of                       conspiracies. Our findings so far are consist-
male conspirators played ringleader or major                     ent with hypotheses derived from the gen-
roles (80 percent of all-male conspirators and                   dered focal concerns, risk preferences, and
over 60 percent of men in mixed-sex groups);                     opportunities perspective.
the pattern is opposite for female conspira-
tors, who mostly played minor roles (73 per-
                                                                 Multivariate Results
cent). Only three female defendants (8
percent) were principal initiators of a con-                     A multivariate framework more stringently
spiracy (two in collusion with a spouse),                        evaluates and quantifies gender’s part in pro-
compared to 55 male defendants (30 percent)                      ducing differences in financial gain and role in
in mixed-sex groups.                                             a fraud, two indicators of sex segregation. We
   The gender gap among co-conspirators                          tested whether sex continues to exert an inde-
was very large for ringleaders (5 percent                        pendent effect on role and illicit profits, net
female) and major players (11 percent female)                    corporate rank, and also the extent to which
but trivial for defendants playing minor roles                   women’s more marginal roles account for their
(about half female). Consistent with Hypoth-                     lesser profits. Comparing women to men in
esis 4 on marginal involvement, on a contin-                     mixed-sex conspiracies yields more conserva-
uum from ringleader to minor player, women                       tive sex-effects estimates than judging women
were more heavily concentrated at the acces-                     against men in all-male groups. Simple models
sory end of the role spectrum and men were                       minimize missing data and maximize the
strongly concentrated at the upper end.                          power of our analysis because the small n
                                                                 makes identifying significant relationships
                                                                 more challenging. We employed ordinal logis-
Illicit Profit
                                                                 tic regression (OLR) because the outcomes of
A useful marker of involvement is whether                        interest are ordered categories, but the distance
and how much offenders profited from a                           between categories is unknown (e.g., ring-
scheme (Steffensmeier and Terry 1986). We                        leader, major, in-between, and minor).13
see substantial sex differences in who gained                    Significance tests relied on robust standard
from fraud. The majority of male offenders                       errors that account for clustering of defendants
personally gained a half-million dollars or                      within conspiracy groups (i.e., correlated error
more. Some women did reap sizeable finan-                        terms among individuals). Table 3 displays
cial gains, but in sharp contrast to men, more                   odds ratios of a man (versus a woman) playing

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                                    463

Table 3. Odds Ratios for Role in Conspiracy and Individual Profits (Ordinal Logistic

                                            Role in Conspiracy                                Individual Profits

Independent Variable                        Model 1            Model 2            Model 3              Model 4    Model 5
Male = 1                                      6.72***            4.24***            6.16***             3.81**     1.71
Company Position                               n/a               2.82***              n/a               2.02*      1.15
Role in Conspiracy                             n/a                n/a                 n/a                n/a       3.76***

Model Information
 Wald Chi-Square                             17.77***          38.61***           21.69***             29.44***   43.31***
 n                                             218               218                157                  157        157
 Pseudo-R Squared                              .05               .12                .05                  .08        .18

Note: p-values are based on robust standard errors, clustered by offending group.
*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001 (two-tailed tests).

a more central role in a conspiracy and profit-                   Accounting for the different corporate positions
ing more from the scheme.                                         of women and men involved in corporate
   Model 1 (Table 3) quantifies the sex differ-                   frauds, the sex effect on illicit profits is reduced
ence in conspirator roles. Men have over six                      by 33 percent (from a factor of six to about
times greater odds than women of playing                          four). The sex difference in profits is reduced
each successively greater role in a conspiracy.                   further—by half—when accounting for the
Model 2 shows women’s less powerful organ-                        roles men and women played in perpetrating
izational positions account for some of the                       these schemes (Model 5).
sex difference in role centrality, but sex still                      In summary, we find persistent sex differ-
exerts a strong, significant effect on role. Suc-                 ences: women played more marginal roles in
cessively higher corporate position increases                     corporate fraud schemes and profited less
the odds of playing a more central role in a                      from their involvement than did similarly
scheme by 2.82. Controlling for defendant’s                       situated male co-conspirators, net the differ-
corporate position (Model 2), the sex effect is                   ent corporate positions of women and men
reduced from seven to four, suggesting about                      involved in these frauds.
two-fifths of the sex effect on role marginality
is due to female offenders’ lower corporate
positions. However, ample sex differences                         FEMALE CO-CONSPIRATORS:
remain: men’s odds of playing a more central                      PARTNERS OR ACCOMPLICES?
role are quadruple those of women in the                          The gendered focal concerns and opportuni-
same corporation position. Such sizeable sex                      ties framework anticipates a substantial share
differences in roles, net corporate rank, sug-                    of women will have close relational ties to a
gest that women’s less powerful legitimate                        male co-offender; manifest strategic utility or
positions are not the primary driver of mar-                      usefulness for carrying out a scheme due to
ginalization to less central illegitimate roles.                  unique skills or strategic financial position;
   Examining sex differences in illicit gain                      are prodded or directed by male co-offenders
from corporate schemes, being male is associ-                     to participate so have lesser culpability and
ated with considerably higher profits, by a fac-                  less agency; and receive a smaller share of the
tor of six (Model 3). Model 4 shows that each                     profit relative to male co-conspirators in the
step up the corporate ladder doubles the odds of                  same conspiracy. Table 4 presents these indi-
being in the next higher category of individual                   cators of women’s marginalization in corpo-
profit, from none to a million dollars or more.                   rate fraud.

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464                                                                             American Sociological Review 78(3)

Table 4. Characteristics of Female Defendants

Characteristic                                                                                           n   %
Male Affiliation (n = 36)
 Spouse                                                                                                  8   22
 Romantic partner or other important relationship (e.g., loyal assistant)                                3    8
 No male affiliation                                                                                    25   69

Utility (n = 37)
  Yes, job duties instrumental to crime                                                                 25   68
  Co-owner or spouse                                                                                    10   27
  No, could be bypassed                                                                                  2    5

Agency/Culpability (n = 36)
 Strongly reactive: directed or instructed by another                                                   19   53
 Mildly reactive: persuaded to please boss or otherwise comply                                           9   25
 Proactive: gave orders; helped develop parts of scheme                                                  4   11
 Very proactive: initiated scheme, led/directed others                                                   4   11

Self-Profit Relative to Other Co-conspirators (n = 35)
  Got the least (or tied for the least)                                                                 18   51
  Got less than most other co-conspirators                                                               9   26
  Got about the same as most others                                                                      3    9
  Got more or much more than most others                                                                 3    9
  Got the most (or tied for the most)                                                                    2    6

Note: Total may not add to 37 female defendants due to incomplete information in archival data.

   Male affiliation. One-third of female                           faced restricted agency in their involvement
defendants had a close affiliation with a male                     pathways. Women’s involvement was pre-
ringleader or major player in a network’s con-                     dominantly in response to directives or pres-
spiracy. Spouses made up the majority of these                     sures from supervisors (about three-fourths);
relationships. Three female co-conspirators                        or, they were co-signers with a spouse of
had close personal relationships with male co-                     fraudulent tax returns. Only four female co-
conspirators, based on statements in indict-                       conspirators were strongly proactive in terms
ments or other archival sources construing the                     of initiating or executing a scheme, half with
defendant as a “close,” “loyal,” or “longtime”                     a spouse as co-ringleader. The other two we
secretary, office manager, or assistant.                           discuss later as unique examples of women in
                                                                   roles central to a conspiracy.
    Utility. The majority of female co-con-
spirators (68 percent) occupied a strategic                           Self-profit. Research shows underworld
position in a company where, if manipulation                       mixed-sex partnerships are male-dominated
about financial data was to occur, she would                       and women receive an unequal share of the
be the conduit or instrument for that manipu-                      score (Steffensmeier and Terry 1986; Stef-
lation. Depending on company size, just a                          fensmeier and Ulmer 2005). An analogous
few or many people may have the opportunity                        pattern prevails among our upperworld
to make false statements about financial data                      mixed-sex conspiracies. About three-fourths
via positions in accounting and compliance or                      of female co-conspirators received less remu-
other roles in which financial information is                      neration than their male counterparts who
collected, recorded, and transmitted.                              participated in the conspiracy (Table 4). Only
                                                                   five female corporate offenders profited more
  Culpability. We sought to establish                              than most in a scheme. When women received
whether female co-conspirators might have                          unusually high profit, it was usually due to

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                                                   Reactive (80%)
                                                                                 Utility & Reactive
                                                                                  (Profit Equally)
                                Spouse & Reactive                                     9%; n = 3
                                  (Profit Equally)
                                    3%; n = 1
                                                                                                        Utility (71%)
                                                              Utility, Reactive & Profit Less
                  Spouse (23%)
                                                                         54% (19)                                Utility
                                                                                                      (Proactive & Profit Equally)
                   Spouse                Spouse, Reactive & Profit Less                                        6%; n = 2
         (Proactive & Profit Equally)              14% (5)
                  6%; n = 2
                                                                                       Utility & Profit Less
                                                                                              3% n = 1

                                                      Profit Less (77%)
                                                                Profit Less
                                                      (Proactive & Nonutility/Spouse)                  Total n = 35 Women
                                                                 6%; n = 2

Figure 1. Overlap in Markers of Involvement for Spousal and Utility Pathways of Women in
Corporate Conspiracies
Note: Total n does not add to 37 due to incomplete information in the archival data for two female

being a spouse and, consequently, being                                 marginal involvement as accomplices, exhibit-
involved as a co-ringleader or major player.                            ing all three markers of marginalization. Over
    Characteristics reflecting marginalization                          half the women (54 percent) were in positions
likely overlap, indicating the extent to which                          of strategic utility to a scheme, took rather than
women were accomplices versus fully par-                                gave directives, and profited less than their co-
ticipating operatives. Figure 1 shows the per-                          conspirators; an additional 14 percent of
cent of female indictees exhibiting each                                women gained entry through spousal affilia-
combination of characteristics signifying                               tion, reactively took orders, and profited less
marginal involvement: (1) followed direc-                               (n = 5) (Figure 1). No other pattern is pre-
tives or strong suggestions (acted reactively)                          dominant. Some women profited less than co-
versus altered financial records or executed                            conspirators despite playing proactive roles (n =
the scheme (acted proactively); (2) received                            3), whereas some reactive spouses and women
financial remuneration less than rather than                            of utility profited as much or more than co-
equal to or greater than her male co-conspira-                          conspirators (n = 4). An equally small group of
tors; and either (3a) occupied a utility posi-                          women was proactive and shared equally in
tion, such that she was of strategic importance                         the profit (n = 4). In short, many women were
to the scheme; or (3b) was a spouse of a main                           minor accomplices and few women possessed
co-conspirator. (Note, however, two spouses                             the constellation of full-partnership character-
played central co-ringleader roles and prof-                            istics. Women’s involvement resulted largely
ited equally; see discussion below of Rebecca                           from opportunities as instruments in the
Parrett.)                                                               scheme or via relational ties. Only the rare
    Almost all the women (68 percent) in the                            female offender ascended past the glass ceiling
conspiracy schemes prosecuted by CFTF had                               of upper-level corporate crime.

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466                                                                          American Sociological Review 78(3)

REPRESENTATIVE CASES OF                                             Sheila Kahanek, an in-house Enron account-
FEMALE INVOLVEMENT                                              ant, was charged with but acquitted of helping
                                                                push through Enron’s bogus sale of power-
To further establish the logic of our gendered                  generating barges to Merrill Lynch to inflate
focal concerns and opportunities framework,                     Enron’s earnings (Houston Chronicle 2005).
we present case profiles representative of                      Kahanek’s trial testimony in her own defense
various female roles across the universe of                     revealed she was marginal to the conspiracy.
corporate co-conspirators on which we have                      Kahanek was left out of incriminating e-mails
data. These case profiles contextualize and                     in which the main co-conspirators planned
illuminate statistical patterns of overlap in                   their actions, received no invitation to cele-
marginalization indicators shown in Figure 1.                   brate the deal because she protested the sale,
We systematically analyzed information on                       and never earned a bonus on the barge deal, as
women from indictments and investigative                        did the executives, for meeting profit goals. In
government and media reports derived from                       fact, Kahanek’s unheeded multiple warnings
trial testimony, grand jury testimony, deposi-                  about the impropriety of the sham sales even-
tions, sentencing hearings, and interviews.                     tually caused her to leave Enron in mid-2001.
These sources are particularly well-suited to                       Paula Rieker, a Board secretary and man-
flesh out the nature of women’s involvement,                    ager of investor relations, compiled business
but they also shed light on women’s moral                       information for investors and prepared revenue
evaluations, motives and justifications, and                    reports for the Board. She had no role in the
pathways of involvement (for an example of                      larger Enron conspiracy but was charged with
a case profile approach applied to female                       insider trading for selling stock upon learning
offending, see O’Rourke 2009). We arranged                      of an upcoming report of a much larger-than-
our findings by level of female involvement,                    anticipated loss in Enron’s broadband unit. In
starting with female-typical roles (e.g., mar-                  her testimony, Rieker admitted she sometimes
ginal or accessory), as in the Enron case, to                   ignored executives’ aggressive bookkeeping
female-atypical roles (e.g., ringleader).14 We                  techniques, saying, “I fell into the role of being
describe company members’ criminal actions                      a good corporate citizen” (Barrionuevo 2006).
in each case, to more fully identify the nature                 However, when CEO Skilling directed her to
of women’s involvement and evaluate                             falsify revenue reports in a news release,
whether the patterns are consistent with our                    Rieker refused and e-mailed a top Enron offi-
theoretical framework.                                          cial outlining the misrepresentation.
                                                                    Kahanek and Rieker became involved in
                                                                the fraud because of their instrumental corpo-
Women’s Minor Roles
                                                                rate positions involving financial or compli-
Enron. The first major corporate conspiracy                     ance transactions. However, both women had
of this century, top Enron executives were                      moral objections to the actions deemed neces-
indicted for misrepresentation of financial                     sary to meet profit goals and neither woman
statements or outright accounting fraud, such                   was viewed by the men as part of the crime
as falsely inflating sales, off-the-books part-                 network. Their lack of illicit gain is consistent
nerships and transactions, and concealment of                   with their minor involvement.
expenses or bonuses to top executives. The                          Lea Fastow is one of a number of spouses
three women among the 34 employees                              in the CFTF database who played a trivial util-
charged in connection with Enron’s illegal                      ity role in a company’s conspiracy, in contrast
accounting practices each occupied a strategi-                  to the major or ringleader roles played by their
cally useful position for the conspiracy and                    husbands. Her husband, CFO Andrew Fastow,
played a minor or no role, similar to many                      was a main architect of the Enron conspiracy.
women in our analysis.                                          Her main culpability was co-signing false

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joint income tax returns that failed to report                   not because of de facto culpability, but to pro-
ill-gotten gains from her husband’s illegal                      vide state’s evidence and testify against upper-
dealings, making her complicit but not proac-                    level officials. This case demonstrates the
tively involved. She pled guilty to a misde-                     female utility role and many women’s lesser
meanor tax crime and served an ostensibly                        culpability—the indicted women at Health-
lenient 10-month prison term for her testi-                      South implemented superiors’ directives rather
mony against Enron officials and for coaxing                     than proactively executing the fraud—as well
her husband into pleading guilty and cooperat-                   as their usefulness for the prosecution’s efforts
ing with the prosecution. Andrew Fastow was                      to sanction upper-level officials.
sentenced to a 10-year prison term and forfei-
ture of $23.8 million.
                                                                 Women’s In-Between Roles
    An interesting finding emerges from quali-
tative analysis of the Enron case: all three                     National Century Financial Services
indicted women served as government wit-                         (NCFS). The $2.8 billion scheme by one of the
nesses, suggesting the women served a utility                    nation’s largest financing companies of health-
role for the prosecution too.                                    care-provider payrolls defrauded investors by
                                                                 hiding massive cash and collateral shortfalls.
    HealthSouth. When financial results                          Eleven defendants were charged, including two
failed to meet earnings expectations, senior                     women: Sherry Gibson, vice president of com-
executives at HealthSouth, the world’s largest                   pliance, and Rebecca Parrett, treasurer and co-
healthcare services provider, held “family”                      founder (with husband and COO Donald Ayers
meetings with accounting staff who were                          and CEO Lance Paulson). We focus on Gibson,
directed to falsify HealthSouth’s books to fill                  who was in-between a minor and major partici-
the “hole” with “dirt” to meet Wall Street ana-                  pant. Parrett, a ringleader with her spouse,
lysts’ expectations. Ultimately, 19 employees                    played a central role rarely occupied by women
were indicted, including five women, the high-                   in significant conspiracies.
est number in the corporate fraud database.                          According to indictment and trial court
    All the women (Angela Ayers, Cathy                           testimony, Parrett, Ayers, and Paulson planned
Edwards, Catherine Fowler, Rebecca Morgan,                       and implemented the scheme, directing
and Virginia Valentine) were in various                          Sherry Gibson and others to falsify reports
accounting-related positions, four in the                        and cover up the fraud by lying to auditors,
Accounting unit and one, Fowler, was Cash                        investors, and rating agencies. Gibson, the
Manager and then Vice President of Treasury.                     key government witness, kept detailed records
All were issued instructions by senior person-                   of actual versus reported transactions. Testi-
nel to falsify the financial books and create                    mony showed that Gibson, despite initial
fictitious documents to conceal the massive                      reluctance to carry out the directives, became
accounting fraud. In contrast to senior officials                actively engaged in manipulating financial
who enriched themselves via bonuses, stock                       information, inventing clever accounting
options, and loans, none of the five female                      practices to make sure the books were in com-
defendants profited except through keeping                       pliance. Gibson did not personally profit from
their jobs or gaining a promotion. All five pled                 her actions whereas Parrett and the male co-
guilty and were sentenced to probation.                          founders profited immensely. Gibson was
    Court testimony established that the women                   convicted and received a four-year prison
played minor roles; they “were little more than                  sentence. Parrett, Ayers, and Paulson were
‘data entry clerks’ following orders to enter                    convicted and sentenced, respectively, to
bogus accounting numbers despite having                          prison terms of 25, 15, and 30 years15 and
lofty titles like vice president” (Abelson 2003).                ordered to jointly forfeit $1.7 billion of prop-
The sentencing judge’s candid assessment was                     erty from the conspiracy proceeds and pay
that the women were targeted for prosecution,                    restitution of $2.3 billion.

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468                                                                           American Sociological Review 78(3)

Women’s Major Roles                                                  Tobin pressured Baker and other account-
                                                                 ing staff to alter financial reports to conceal
FLP Capital. A business purportedly offering                     the loss, directives that at first were met with
high-yield investments in international trading                  widespread reluctance. Consistent with our
of bank financial instruments, FLP actually                      conceptual framework and as observed in
was a Ponzi scheme that raised more than $11                     underworld crime networks, women ringlead-
million from at least 30 investors; the defend-                  ers may have a harder time recruiting co-
ants misappropriated almost all the funds for                    conspirators. Male executives Bray and Giordano
their own benefit. Six defendants were indicted,                 were opposed to participating but eventually
including one woman, Monica Iles, an expert                      played proactive or major roles facilitating the
in financial investment transactions (i.e.,                      conspiracy; for example, they prodded the
instrumental utility) with a prior record for                    unwilling Baker to make the entries Tobin
investment fraud and tax evasion (i.e., demon-                   mandated. Tobin, too, was persistent in rebuff-
strated some criminal capital). Illes was hired                  ing reservations (“we’re dead if we add up
by the scheme’s ringleaders, Daniel Benson                       these year-end numbers”; “you’d better help
and Frank Peltz, with whom she shared in the                     us through this”) (Jarboe 2004). Eventually, at
illicit gains, although they got larger percent-                 Tobin’s directive, Baker hid expenses and
ages. She was sentenced to 78 months in                          inflated accounts receivables so the company
prison compared to 188 months each for the                       could continue borrowing money. Beverly
male ringleaders. This case is useful to see how                 Baker’s in-between role stemmed from her
some women establish a niche or garner a                         utility position dealing with financial matters,
reputation that provides entry and fuller par-                   making her highly functional for the scheme
ticipation in male-dominated crime networks.                     to proceed. Testimony indicated that Baker
                                                                 raised numerous reservations but, vulnerable
                                                                 as the breadwinner for her disabled husband,
Unique Female Ringleader
                                                                 felt her job was at stake.
Network Technology Group (NTG). A
small, 125-person telecom company, NTG’s
                                                                 Outlier: IMClone and Martha Stewart
downturn started when a chief customer filed
for bankruptcy owing close to $1 million,                        Some portray Martha Stewart as the new or
which NTG officials failed to disclose as a                      quintessential female corporate offender
loss to the outside accounting firm preparing                    (Dodge 2009). Others perceive her prosecu-
its year-end financial statements. In dollar                     tion as a DOJ publicity stunt or rooted in
amounts, NTG ranks as one of the smallest                        gender bias: a powerful businesswoman was
conspiracies in the database. Key participants                   pursued for trivial offenses while male execu-
were ringleader Michelle Tobin, co-founder                       tives at Enron and WorldCom were indicted
and CEO; two male executives, CFO Thomas                         but never jailed (e.g., Brickey 2006). Despite
Bray and COO Victor Giordano; and female                         which view one favors, we know the follow-
controller Beverly Baker.                                        ing about her involvement.
    Michelle Tobin is significant as the only                        Samuel Waksal, founder and CEO of phar-
independent (non-spouse) female ringleader                       maceutical company ImClone Systems, gave
in the corporate fraud database. Also unique,                    advance notice based on an inside tip to family
Tobin profited little from the fraud compared                    and friends that the Food and Drug Adminis-
to other ringleaders in the database. Deposi-                    tration (FDA) would not approve the compa-
tion and trial testimony and the indictment                      ny’s anti-cancer drug (Erbitux). Following
show her intentions were to save the company,                    Waksal’s arrest, media mogul and homemak-
not self-profit. According to one employee,                      ing icon Martha Stewart was investigated for
“[Tobin] was desperate. The company was her                      insider trading for selling IMClone stock just
life” (Jarboe 2004).                                             prior to the company’s FDA announcement.

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   Stewart played no role in the insider trad-                   than perhaps some added job security, most
ing conspiracy orchestrated by Waksal.                           female conspirators did not benefit finan-
Rather, Stewart learned through her stockbro-                    cially from their involvement, as anticipated
ker that Waksal was selling all of his stock.                    in Hypothesis 2.
Stewart ultimately was charged with making
the false statement that her stockbroker had                        Different roles played. Whereas the
not informed her about Waksal’s sudden stock                     majority of male conspirators played ring-
sale. Had Stewart admitted receiving this                        leader or major roles in conspiracies, the
information, she could have averted prosecu-                     majority of female conspirators played minor
tion. Instead, after her refusal to accept a plea                roles. Few women were ringleaders, those that
and a highly publicized trial, Stewart was                       were often shared the role with their spouse.
found guilty and sentenced to a five-month                       Gender differences in roles partly reflect wom-
prison term. James Stewart (2011:119) writes,                    en’s greater representation at subordinate posi-
“Given that Stewart saved just $46,000 on the                    tions in companies. Nonetheless, as our
trade, the sale of ImClone stock and subse-                      multivariate analysis showed, female co-con-
quent cover-up surely ranks as one of the                        spirators were more likely to play minor roles
most ill-fated white-collar crimes ever.”                        in schemes, controlling for company position,
                                                                 confirming Hypotheses 3 and 4.
DISCUSSION AND                                                      Pathways. Women’s involvement in a
CONCLUSIONS                                                      company’s conspiracy came about through two
Our findings do not comport with images of                       main pathways: a relational pathway entailing
highly placed or powerful white-collar female                    a close personal or romantic relationship with a
criminals. Consistent with the gendered focal                    main co-conspirator; and a utility pathway in
concerns and gendered crime opportunities                        which a defendant occupied a strategic or gate-
framework, we found substantial gender dif-                      way position in a company, such as in compli-
ferences in both the magnitude and character                     ance or accounting, upholding Hypotheses 5
of involvement in major corporate frauds of                      and 6. Together, these two pathways accounted
the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first cen-                   for almost all female fraud cases.
turies. First, the majority of corporate offend-
ers were male, less than one in ten was                             Reactive/proactive involvement. Female
female; all solo-executed frauds were by                         co-conspirators were more reactive than pro-
men; no cases involved an all-female con-                        active in their decisions to participate. A siz-
spiracy; and all-male groups formed the pre-                     able portion were reluctant participants who
ponderance of conspiracies—mixed-sex                             drifted or were prodded into conspiracies
groups were only one-quarter of the total.                       because of exigencies of the positions they
Supporting Hypothesis 1, the most typical                        occupied in the company as employees
pattern showed women are not part of corpo-                      responsible for financial record-keeping and
rate crime groups at all. Second, when women                     reporting.
do participate in corporate crime, robust
qualitative differences are apparent when                            Recruiting potential. We tentatively
comparing female versus male involvement                         conclude that female executives wishing to
in mixed-sex groups.                                             orchestrate a corporate conspiracy find it
                                                                 harder to network and recruit co-conspirators,
   Personal gain/profits. Female conspira-                       especially highly capable and proactive co-
tors profited far less than their male co-con-                   conspirators. Although more in-depth research
spirators, a disparity that persisted even when                  is needed, supportive evidence from our study
controlling for corporate rank and whether                       includes the nonexistence of all-female con-
one played a major role in a scheme. Other                       spiracy groups, the extremely low number of

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470                                                                          American Sociological Review 78(3)

female ringleaders who executed large-                              With this article, our goals were to develop
scale fraud operations, and the recruiting                      a theory of gender differences in corporate
difficulties faced by the only independent                      crime and to empirically establish features of
female ringleader, as revealed in the qualita-                  female involvement and the gender gap.
tive analysis.                                                  Although results demonstrate robust gender
    Finally, we point out a fundamental irony                   differences consistent with our hypotheses,
elucidated by the qualitative findings. It                      they do not reveal how the explanatory factors
seems a sizable portion of the indicted females                 in our conceptual framework actually influ-
in our database were unduly vulnerable to                       ence gendered outcomes. Importantly, we do
indictment and prosecution not so much                          not have direct measures of focal concerns or
because of their culpability or real contribu-                  criminal opportunities theorized to shape
tions to the conspiracy, but instead because of                 female involvement and gender differences.
their utility: they were in mid-level, easily-                  An essential priority for future research, then,
monitored positions in which they collected                     is to develop better measures of these underly-
and reported financial data that, in turn, made                 ing theoretical constructs for incorporation
them useful tools for the prosecution to gain                   into large-scale statistical analyses, including
evidence and to turn state’s witness against                    information on moral orientations, risk prefer-
co-conspirators.                                                ences, and extent of perceived or actual oppor-
    We have confidence in these findings                        tunities. Absent such measures, scholarly
because of their consistency with our theo-                     interpretation of gender differences in corpo-
retical expectations and with extant accounts                   rate and upper-level white-collar crime neces-
and other empirical research. First, recent                     sarily remains somewhat speculative.
accounts by journalists and Wall Street ana-                        Future studies might (1) extend our con-
lysts about the major financial scandals,                       ceptual framework to other corporate or
including some in our database, identify few                    white-collar illegalities, such as insurance or
female offenders and even fewer who played                      medical fraud where female workforce repre-
central roles (see, e.g., Ajamie and Kelly                      sentation is higher; (2) study variation in
2010; Lewis 2010; McLean and Elkin 2003;                        corporate offending and extent of female
Stewart 2011). Second, theory (Steffensmeier                    involvement by type of company or industry,
1983) and research on underworld crime                          by organizational characteristics such as vari-
organizations show that women are excluded                      ation in sex composition of employees in
from or marginalized in criminal enterprises.                   managerial or professional positions, and by
Parallel to underworld sex segregation, gen-                    organizational culture, such as whether cor-
dered labor market segmentation is strongly                     porate malfeasance is more or less normative;
influenced by informal exclusionary practices                   and (3) compare and interrogate gendered
that limit women’s entry into some roles in                     patterns of corporate crime, where the gender
the economy (Gorman and Kmec 2009;                              gap is quite large, with those for occupational
Kanter 1977). As a result, women are likely                     fraud, where the gender gap is small for some
either excluded entirely from lucrative crimi-                  categories, like embezzlement or misappro-
nal conspiracies or are utilized in sex-typed                   priation of funds or assets (Daly 1989; Holt-
ways deemed most effective for the enter-                       freter 2005). Finally, researchers might pursue
prise. In our study, sex-typing was seen in the                 whether the gendered focal concerns and
high number of women occupying strategic                        opportunities framework applies more
financial-reporting positions and women’s                       broadly to understanding gender differences
greater difficulty in recruiting co-offenders.                  in other areas of crime and deviance and also,
In this sense, too, prospective female ring-                    perhaps, to conventional pursuits where gen-
leaders face constraints should they be                         dered self/other expectations and selection
inclined to pursue more organized and lucra-                    processes are prominent underlying factors,
tive forms of corporate or white-collar crime.                  as in career and educational choices.

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Steffensmeier et al.                                                                                         471

   In light of concerns raised by some econo-                    leaders and high-level officials would also
mists and sociologists about corporate cor-                      mean fewer tempted individuals—the two
ruption as an important cause of recent                          main ingredients organizational scholars high-
economic recessions and other societal harms,                    light as crucial for deterring corporate or
our findings raise an intriguing question:                       organizational wrongdoing (Shover and Gra-
Would more women in positions of corporate                       bosky 2010). Alternatively, it is plausible that
leadership and power reduce corporate fraud?                     more women would not make any difference
There are good reasons for believing so:                         because of organizational inertia and because
female executives might be more ethical in                       women who move up the corporate ladder will
their decision-making, more likely to honor                      be socialized into the ethos of commercial
the fundamental laws of financial risk and                       interests and market dominance at all costs.
avoid risk-taking excesses both within and                          Testing these alternative hypotheses awaits
outside the corporate setting, and less likely                   growth in the number of women in corporate
to create or foster a criminogenic organiza-                     leadership positions. For now, paralleling gen-
tional culture. Organizational sociologists                      dered labor market segmentation processes
have long noted the importance of corporate                      that limit and shape entry into economic roles,
leadership in establishing a corporation’s                       and consistent with gendered opportunity
moral climate and providing credible over-                       structures in underworld crime networks, the
sight to restrain the lure of naked self-interest                same informal exclusionary practices operate
and short-sighted greed (Barnard 1938).                          among criminal co-conspirator networks in
Besides providing more credible oversight                        organizations, suggesting minimal changes
(more likely to monitor, establish directives,                   have occurred in at least some fundamental
and accept regulatory oversight), more female                    forms of gender stratification.

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                                                                                   Table A1. CFTF Database of Frauds: Companies, Number Indicted, and Number of Females

                                                                                        Company Name                       # Indicted   # Females         Company Name                              # Indicted   # Females
                                                                                   1    Adaptec                                2            0        30   Hamilton Bancorp Inc.                         3             0
                                                                                   2    Adelphia                               5            0        31   Health Maintenance Centers Inc.               5             0
                                                                                   3    Allfirst Bank                          1            0        32   HealthSouth Corporation                      19             5
                                                                                   4    Alliance                               6            1        33   Holmes Harbor Sewer District                  4             0
                                                                                   5    Allou Healthcare Inc.                  9            0        34   Homestore.com                                15             2
                                                                                   6    American Banknote Corp.                3            0        35   HPL Technologies                              1             0
                                                                                   7    Anicom                                 7            1        36   ImClone Systems Inc.                          5             1
                                                                                   8    AOL/Purchase Pro 2                    10            0        37   Indus International Inc.                      2             0
                                                                                   9    AremisSoft                             3            0        38   Informix Corp.                                1             0
                                                                                   10   Bio Control Technology                 1            0        39   Intrust                                       7             0
                                                                                   11   Capital City Bank                      2            0        40   Just for Feet                                 6             0
                                                                                   12   Capital Consultants                    4            0        41   Katun Corporation                            12             0
                                                                                   13   Cendant (CUC)                          9            2        42   L90                                           6             2
                                                                                   14   Charter Communications Inc.            4            0        43   Lason Inc.                                    4             0
                                                                                   15   Computer Associates Intl.              9            0        44   Leslie Fay Companies Inc.                     2             0
                                                                                   16   Countrymark Cooperative Inc.           1            0        45   Manhattan Bagel Company Inc.                  4             0
                                                                                   17   Credit Suisse First Boston Corp.       1            0        46   Maryland Retirement and Pension Sys.          3             1
                                                                                   18   Critical Path                          4            0        47   McKesson Corporation                          7             0
                                                                                   19   Cylink Corporation                     2            0        48   Media Vision Technology Inc.                  2             0
                                                                                   20   Dynegy/Nicor Inc.                      8            2        49   Medi-Hut Company Inc.                         4             0

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                                                                                   21   Econnect                               1            0        50   Mercury Finance Company                       4             0
                                                                                   22   Enron                                 34            3        51   Mortgage Corporation of America               7             1
                                                                                   23   Enterasys Network Systems Inc.        14            1        52   Motorcar Parts and Accessories Inc.           2             0
                                                                                   24   Financial Advisory Consultants         1            0        53   Nat. Century Financial Enterprises Inc.      11             2
                                                                                   25   FLIR Systems Inc.                      3            0        54   NESCO                                         2             1
                                                                                   26   FLP Capital Group Inc.                 6            1        55   Network Associates Inc.                       3             0
                                                                                   27   FPA Medical Management Inc.            1            0        56   Network Technology Group                      4             2
                                                                                   28   Genesis Intermedia Inc.                9            0        57   Newcom                                        4             0
                                                                                   29   Golden Bear Golf                       2            0        58   NextCard Inc.                                 2             0

                                                                                   Table A1. (continued)

                                                                                        Company Name                          # Indicted         # Females            Company Name                              # Indicted        # Females
                                                                                   59   Peregrine Systems Inc.                    17                  1          73   Suprema                                          9                 0
                                                                                   60   PinnFund, U.S.A., Inc.                    10                  1          74   Symbol Technologies Inc.                        13                 0
                                                                                   61   PurchasePro.com                            2                  0          75   Targus Group International Inc.                  1                 0
                                                                                   62   Quest Communications International         7                  0          76   U.S. Technologies Inc.                           1                 0
                                                                                   63   Quintus Corporation                        1                  0          77   U.S. Wireless Corporation                        2                 0
                                                                                   64   Reliant Energy Inc.                        4                  1          78   Unify Corporation                                1                 0
                                                                                   65   Rent-Way Inc.                              3                  0          79   Vari-L Company Inc.                              6                 1
                                                                                   66   Republic NY Securities Corp.               4                  1          80   Waste Management                                 4                 0
                                                                                   67   Rite Aid Corporation                       6                  0          81   Westar Resources Inc.                            2                 0
                                                                                   68   San Clemente Securities Inc.               4                  0          82   Worldcom Inc.                                    6                 1
                                                                                   69   Sirena Apparel Group Inc.                  2                  0          83   Zurich Payroll Services Inc.                     1                 0
                                                                                   70   Smith Technologies                         8                  2
                                                                                   71   Standard Automotive Corporation            2                  0               TOTAL                                          436               37
                                                                                   72   Stevens Financial Group                    7                  1

                                                                                   Note: The CFTF database also included eight companies indicted for fraud in which no individual defendants were identified because the Department of Justice

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                                                                                   either reached a settlement with the company in lieu of criminal prosecution of individual defendants or deferred prosecution of specific individuals pending
                                                                                   further investigation (U.S. Department of Justice 2003). The eight companies are AEP, AIG, Arthur Andersen, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Merrill Lynch,
                                                                                   Micrus Corporation, Monsanto Company, and PNC ICLC Corporation.

474                                                                                 American Sociological Review 78(3)

Acknowledgments                                                               Supplemental information filled in nearly all miss-
                                                                              ing data (except two cases for self-profit and one
The authors thank Kenneth Butterfield, Diane Felmlee,
                                                                              case for male affiliation and agency).
Miles Harer, Julie Kmec, the editors, and several anony-
                                                                         7.   Common legal charges such as securities fraud or
mous reviewers for their thoughtful comments and help-
                                                                              falsifying business records cover heterogeneous
ful suggestions on earlier drafts.
                                                                              acts, simple and complex, and thus are not very
Notes                                                                    8.   The offense designation is company-level. Some
                                                                              defendants, however, were not charged with the
 1.   We use the terms “groups,” “conspiracy,” and “net-                      company-level offense but with other illegalities
      work” interchangeably to describe CFTF frauds                           (e.g., insider trading or tax violations), and other
      that involved collaborating individuals. The term                       defendants were charged with both the company
      network is often used in criminology to characterize                    offense and other illegalities (e.g., insider trading,
      a flexible, dynamic, emergent organizational form                       theft, money laundering, receiving kickbacks, or tax
      in which actors may have direct or indirect ties to                     violations).
      one another (Morselli 2009), as in a drug or gang                  9.   Conspiracy refers to two or more persons jointly
      network. In a group, all collaborators are directly                     involved in an illegal scheme; we use this term for
      tied, as in a co-offending group. CFTF frauds likely                    parsimony and because most schemes involved co-
      include both networks and groups.                                       conspirators rather than solo-offenders.
 2.   Our empirical analysis focuses on corporate crime                10.    Some imprecision of measurement likely exists due
      and criminals, but our theoretical perspective likely                   to variation across companies in titles and corre-
      extends to other sorts of serious white-collar crime.                   sponding job responsibilities and because a defen-
      Corporate crime, committed with an organization’s                       dant’s job title might change during a conspiracy.
      support or implicit approval, is distinguished from              11.    Spouses and co-owners of corporations were not
      ordinary forms of employee theft, occupational                          coded as being in positions of strategic utility.
      fraud, or other white-collar crimes committed                           Spouses were not necessarily employed by a cor-
      against an employer where the organization is the                       poration so could not have job duties instrumental
      victim (see Holtfreter 2005).                                           to the crime. Owners are important gatekeepers to
 3.   Paralleling theoretical explanations of occupa-                         the commission of a crime, but typically in ways
      tional sex-segregation and the consequent pay gap                       beyond being useful or efficacious for a scheme
      (Reskin, McBrier, and Kmec 1999), our framework                         to occur. Two women were both spouses and co-
      on illegitimate enterprises conceptualizes gender                       owners.
      as operating across various levels to predict wom-               12.    For about half the corporations in our study, we
      en’s limited and marginalized white-collar crime                        could identify the sex composition of top man-
      involvement. We likewise focus on (1) women’s                           agement (e.g., CEO and COO) when the fraud
      socialization and risk preferences; (2) stereotypes                     unfolded based on SEC and other archived reports
      of women as less-than-ideal partners; (3) informal                      listing senior executives’ names or identifying the
      recruitment networks reluctant to select women as                       female proportion. About 13 to 14 percent of senior
      leaders or co-participants; and (4) organizational                      executives in these firms were women.
      practices and power arrangements that limit wom-                 13.    Diagnostic tests showed the ordinal logistic regres-
      en’s entry into positions or groups.                                    sion assumption of parallel regression lines was
 4.   The CFTF also included eight cases (see the note to                     met; slopes did not differ across levels of the depen-
      Table A1 in the Appendix) in which the company                          dent variable. In exploratory analyses, we added
      but no individuals were indicted. These cases are                       several different control variables to models, but
      substantially similar to the 83 companies in our                        none altered the relationships reported here.
      study group in terms of industry sector, offense                 14.    Reports are available upon request because cita-
      type, and loss to investors.                                            tions would be needlessly voluminous.
 5.   To test the coding scheme and improve reliability                15.    Parrett fled the country after conviction, likely con-
      and validity of results, three people coded poten-                      tributing to her receiving a longer sentence than her
      tially ambiguous variables, like role in a scheme.                      husband.
      Inter-coder reliability was high (e.g., over .85), but
      any disagreements were reviewed by the first author
      and resolved via consensus among coders.
 6.   Indictments provided complete or near-complete                   References
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                                                                      Darrell J. Steffensmeier is Professor of Sociology at
    The Crimes Women Commit: The Punishments They
                                                                      The Pennsylvania State University. A Fellow of American
    Receive. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
                                                                      Society of Criminology (ASC), he has authored articles
Simpson, Sally S. 1986. “The Decomposition of Anti-
                                                                      on a range of law/criminology topics. His book The
    trust: Testing a Multilevel, Longitudinal Model of
                                                                      Fence: In the Shadow of Two Worlds received the
    Profit-Squeeze.” American Sociological Review
                                                                      Outstanding Scholarship Award from the Society for the
                                                                      Study of Social Problems. Another book (with Jeffery
Steffensmeier, Darrell J. 1983. “An Organizational Per-
                                                                      Ulmer), Confessions of a Dying Thief: Understanding
    spective on Sex-Segregation in the Underworld:
                                                                      Criminal Careers and Illegal Enterprise, received the
    Building a Sociological Theory of Sex Differences in
                                                                      2006 Outstanding Scholarship Award from the American
    Crime.” Social Forces 61:1010–1032.
                                                                      Society of Criminology. Current research targets gender
Steffensmeier, Darrell J. 1989. “Causes of White-Collar
                                                                      and race-ethnicity effects on crime patterns (including
    Crime Revisited.” Criminology 27:345–58.
                                                                      white-collar crime) and further developing the gendered
Steffensmeier, Darrell J. and Emilie Allan. 1996. “Gen-
                                                                      paradigm of female offending.
    der and Crime: Toward a Gendered Theory of Female
    Offending.” Annual Review of Sociology 22:459–87.
Steffensmeier, Darrell J. and Robert M. Terry. 1986.                  Jennifer Schwartz is Associate Professor of Sociology
    “Institutional Sexism in the Underworld: A View                   at Washington State University. Her research focuses on
    from the Inside.” Sociological Inquiry 56:304–323.                gender and crime; stratification, family structure, com-
Steffensmeier, Darrell J. and Jeffery T. Ulmer. 2005. Con-            munities, and crime; and how social change impinges on
    fessions of a Dying Thief: Understanding Criminal                 trends in crime and social control. Her research on trends
    Careers and Illegal Enterprise. New Brunswick, NJ:                and correlates of girls’ and women’s violence and sub-
    Aldine-Transaction.                                               stance abuse and socio-legal responses to it has been
Stewart, James B. 2011. Tangled Webs. New York: Pen-                  funded by the National Institute of Justice, the National
    guin Press.                                                       Institutes of Health, and published in Social Problems,
Sutherland, Edwin H. 1940. “White-Collar Criminality.”                Criminology, Journal of Marriage and Family, and
    American Sociological Review 5:1–12.                              Addictive Behaviors.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). 2003. First Year
    Report to the President: Corporate Fraud Task                     Michael Roche is a doctoral student in the clinical psy-
    Force. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.                chology program at The Pennsylvania State University.
Wang, Xia and Kristy Holtfreter. 2012. “The Effects of                He has published five peer-reviewed journal articles, three
    Corporation- and Industry-Level Strain and Oppor-                 book chapters, along with numerous conference presenta-
    tunity on Corporate Crime.” Journal of Research in                tions. His research focuses on how personality pathology
    Crime & Delinquency 49:1–35.                                      manifests through social and functional impairment in
Zeitz, Dorothy. 1981. Women Who Embezzle or Defraud.                  daily life. Michael is the current President-Elect of the
    New York: Praeger.                                                Society for Personality Assessment Graduate Student
Zhang, Sheldon X., Ko-Lin Chin, and Jody Miller. 2007.                Association, and the Graduate Student Representative for
    “Women’s Participation in Chinese Transnational                   the Society for Interpersonal Theory and Research.

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