“The relationship between gender and corruption appears to depend on context,” said Justin Esarey, an assistant professor of political science at Rice and the study’s lead author. “When corruption is stigmatized, as in most democracies, women will be less tolerant and less likely to engage in it compared with men. But if ‘corrupt’ behaviors are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap.”
Esarey noted that previous research has shown that greater female participation in government (that is, in the legislature) is associated with lower levels of perceived corruption. However, he said that his research reveals that this relationship does not exist in autocracies, where women might feel more compelled to go along with the status quo than challenge the system.
“States that have more corruption tend to be less democratic,” Esarey said. “In autocracies, bribery, favoritism and personal loyalty are often characteristic of normal government operations and are not labeled as corruption.”
Esarey theorized that many women feel bound by their society’s political norms, including when they make decisions as government officials.
“In short, recruiting women into government would be unlikely to reduce corruption across the board,” Esarey said.