White-Collar Crime: Is It a Male Domain?


According to Burns, white-collar crime include such offenses as “fraud, bankruptcy fraud, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, computer crime, medical crime, public corruption, identity theft, environmental crime, pension fund crime, RICO crimes, consumer fraud, occupational crime, securities fraud, financial fraud, and forgery”. These kinds of offenses involve the use of computers and paperwork and to a large extent, they go without being detected. White collar crime has great effects on the key areas of the present life. Croall points out that the “financial scandals such as the collapse of major banks and pension frauds question the legitimacy of the financial world and the climate of ‘sleaze’ has become a political issue”.This author further points out that the public sector fraud as well as the tax fraud decreases the government resources for education, the welfare of the citizens and also health resources. Moreover, in considering the private sector, the harmful activities that the companies engage in puts the safety of the workers and consumers at risk and they have a broader impact on the environment. It has been established that both men and women do engage in white-collar crimes. However, there are those scholars who believe that white-collar crime is the men’s domain. This statement is not necessarily true and needs to be discussed in detail, and this is going to be the focus of this paper.

White Collar Crime: a Male Domain?

The researches that have been conducted studies in the area of gender and crime basically draw on the official arrest statistics. Basing on studies like these, there is a great deal of learning about the frequency but there is no learning about the nature of the illegalities of men and women. Such gaps are particularly severe for white-collar crimes. The scholars normally utilize the “Uniform Crime Reports” or Offender-Based Transaction Statistics” (UCR or OBTS) arrest data of forgery, embezzlement and fraud at the time they are carrying out the assessment of the rates of white-collar crime which is based on race or gender. However, the analysis of these scholars is on the basis of the assumptions which are questionable. For instance, an argument is presented by Simon that the raising level of the female share of fraud, embezzlement, and fraud arrests in the course of the 1970s and in the 1960s may be described by the raise in the women’s “labor force participation rate”. This author makes an assumption that all the above three mentioned crimes are “occupationally related”

An assertion is made by Hirschi and Gottfredson that “by definition one must be in the white collar world to be a white collar offender”. These scholars clearly make an assumption that all the people who are arrested for embezzlement and fraud are “white collar workers”. A larger portion of the research that has been conducted in the area of sentencing those people who commit the white collar crimes puts focus on the “class-based” disparities but the more fundamental questions are ignored. These may include such questions as “who are these white collar offenders and what is the nature of their acts? Is there a relationship between celebrated cases of white collar crime described in case studies and most of defendants prosecuted for white collar crime in the courts?”.

Daly points out that it is very important that one gets to “understand the characteristics of acts falling in the presumptive white collar statutory domain, how they are organized both within and outside workplace settings, and their class, gender, and race-specific nature”. The debates and disputes in regard to the way white collar crimes can be defined has been there beginning from more than fifty years ago. The lack of agreement in giving a definition to ‘white collar crime’ “revolves around whether characteristics of the offense or the offender should be primary”. The focus of an “offense-related” approach is on the way the crime is committed. On the other hand, the focus of the “offender-related” approach is on a specific group, that is, those in power positions or having high status. In the case where one considers an “offender-related” approach, there is consideration of a Medicaid fraud” as being a white collar crime if it is committed by either a doctor or the owner of a nursing home but not in the case where such a crime is committed by a clerical employee or someone who is poor. On the other hand, if the offense related-approach is considered, such a distinction is of no significance.

The various definitions have an effect on the way researchers conceptualize the white collar crime and gender. According to Daly, “one line of research is to analyze state or federal-level arrest data for embezzlement, fraud, and forgery, a method using an offense-based definition of white collar crime, that is, a crime committed by fraud or deception”. Basing on the Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S statistics), state data indicates that the share of the female arrests for forgery, embezzlement and fraud offenses is 35 percent. Basing on the same statistics, at the federal level, female share for two crimes, forgery and embezzlement, is between 30 to 40 percent. For the reason that there has been an increase in the female share of arrests in the course of the last twenty years, some people hold a belief that there is converging of the men’s and women’s white collar crime rates. Basing on the U.K statistics, it was established that more men than women commit crimes in general, with 71 percent of crimes being committed by men. Basing on the 2006 figures, it was established that theft was the most common crime committed by both men and women. Looking at the white collar crime, a larger number of men committed offenses on this line, accounting for over 65 percent.

There is no reflection of the visibility of the females in the arrest data in the second research line that puts focus on the bigger forms of organizational crime or the offenses that are committed by professionals such as lawyers and doctors among others. A small number of these studies have a “single woman in them”. Among the explanations for this is that, in comparing women and men, just a small number of women are in positions of power. However, there are other reasons for luck of visibility of women in this research body. A small number of scholars considered it to be important to conduct interviews with the female managers as well as female business owners and professional workers, or to follow questions of the way gender relates in the work place may give structure to the organizational crime or occupational crime. These two lines of research create completely opposite white collar images as well as gender images. The suggestion is given by the offense-based approach of an increasing tide of fresh “female white collar criminals” and on the other hand, the offender-based approach “suggests that white collar crime is a male-only domain”

In reviewing the literature, there is revealing of the scarcity of evidence further than statistical analyses of arrest data. Apart from a few small-scale case studies, the research conducted by Zietz provides the only sustainable investigation. This researcher had intentions of engaging in determining whether the generalizations presented by another scholar, Cressey, for the men who had engaged in the violation of a position of “financial trust”, were applicable to women who were put in prison for the crimes of fraud and embezzlement. Her findings were that the conditions that boosted crime for her “group of women” were not similar to those that boosted crime among the men of Cressey. The motivation among the women to engage in crime was a need to carry out their duties as mothers as well as wives. On the other hand, Cressey’s men had a “non-shareable financial problem stemming from business or gambling debts, poor judgment, or spending beyond their means”.

What are still in the literature are the speculations, hypotheses as well as a debate about the interpretation of the white collar crime arrest data. Basing on the researches on sex segregation in companies as well as on the underworld crime, Steffensmeier gives an outline of these hypotheses for the upper-world crime of men and women. This researcher gives a suggestion that “men’s sexism towards women in the underworld should also be seen in the upper-world; men do not like having women as crime partners, they neither trust women nor think them capable in a jam”.

However, the question that may arise is, in case men do not include the women from the upper-world crime groups, why should the women come up the groups of their own? Messerschmidt makes efforts to give an answer to this question and he does this by pointing to the “masculine ethic” among the corporations. This ethic of prosperity and accomplishment no matter what it takes may drive a larger number of men than women who hold the managerial positions as well as the middle positions to engage in the white collar crimes. This explanation can also be seen in the work presented by Ghiloni in which he finds out that the “corporate women are more inclined toward a morality of positive change and more concerned with issues of social responsibility in comparison with men in similar corporate positions”

The sex segregation within the organizations or in the job market forms the basis of the argument presented by Box in which he affirms that the women’s share of white collar crime ought to also be low. In specific terms, this researcher has speculation that since the females have higher exposure to supervision during their work, this limits the chances for them to engage in white collar crimes. This scholar also points out that the social bonds among men are stronger in the workplace than those among women and therefore, the men are highly likely to engage in the white collar criminal actively than women.

The question of gender differences in the ”workplace chances” to engage in white collar criminal activities has brought about a debate concerning the interpretation of the “UCR arrest” data. An argument is presented by Simon that as the females move in to “those types of jobs that will provide them with opportunities to commit offenses that are important enough to report, the female share of arrests for forgery, fraud, and embezzlement will increase”. However, those who are opposed to Simon’s idea such as Chapman and Messerschmidt point out that the raising level of the women UCR white collar arrests share provides a reflection of the economic as well as occupational marginality of women and not mobility. Moreover, a suggestion is given by Steffensmeier that the frauds and forgeries committed by women may not be related occupationally in any way.


The white collar crime basically involves use of paperwork and computer, making it difficult to detect. The offenses that are under this category are committed by people who regarded as belonging to a “higher class with “bigger brains”. Both men and women engage in the white collar crime although, basing on the discussion, there is a higher tendency for men to get involved in this kind of crime than women. According to some researchers, women commit this crime following the responsibilities that they have as mothers and wives, and on the other hand, men commit the crime following their need to settle debts or to make up for their lack of appropriate use of funds. Basing on other studies, it is established that women’s involvement in the white collar crimes has been increasing with time and this makes it actually difficult to conclude that white collar crime is a male domain.


Box, S, Power, Crime, and Mystification. Tavistock, New York, 1983.

Bureau of Justice Statistics, White Collar Crime. Special Report, NCJ-106876. Washington, D.C.: U.S., Department of Justice, 1987.

Burns, K, White collar crimes. 2011. Web.

Croall, H, Understanding white collar crime. Open University Press, Buckingham. Philadelphia, 2001.

Daly, K, ‘Gender and varieties of white collar crimes’, Criminology, vol. 27, no. 4, 1989. pp. 769 – 793.

Gender and Crime, 2011, Web.

Ghiloni, BW, Power through the eyes of women. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, 1987.

Hirschi, T, & Gottfredson M, Causes of white-collar crime. Criminology, vol. 25, 1987, pp. 949-974.

Messerschmidt, J, Capitalism, Patriarchy, and Crime: Toward a Socialist Feminist Criminology. Rowman and Littlefield, Totowa, N.J, 1986.

Simon, R, Women and Crime. Lexington Books, Lexington, 1975.

Steffensmeier, D, ‘Organization properties and sex-segregation in the underworld: Building a sociological theory of sex differences in crime’, Social Forces, vol. 61, 1983, pp.1011-1032.

Zietz, D, Women Who Embezzle or Defraud: A Study of Convicted Felons, Praeger, New York, 1981.

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