Women and White-Collar Crime
- Mary DodgeMary DodgeSchool of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver
Women and white-collar crime is a topic that has, overall, received little attention in the literature. Initially, women were omitted from discussion and research because of their lack of participation, though some early commentary focused on victimization. When Edwin Sutherland first drew public and academic attention to white-collar crimes, few women were employed in positions that were conducive to commit elite crimes related to occupations or professions. According to Sutherland, white-collar crime involved professional men in positions of trust. From 1939 until the 1970s, work on white-collar offenders and offenses was male-centric, which included both scholarly researchers who were exploring the topic and males committing the majority of crimes. Corporations and respected professionals, not women, were presented with a multitude of opportunities to engage in white-collar crimes with little or no serious consequences. Primarily male corporate executives, politicians, and medical professionals committed white-collar crimes that included, for example, activities such as price fixing, insider trading, bribery, insurance fraud, and Ponzi schemes.
Women, who lacked opportunity outside the private sphere of the home, were less involved in crime overall and certainly were in no position to commit white-collar offenses. In the 1940s and 1950s, female crime was typically viewed as promiscuous, aberrant, and male-like behavior. Eventually, in the mid-1970s as more women moved into the public sphere seeking employment, early predictions by female scholars suggested that an increased involvement in white-collar crime was inevitable. The types of crimes committed by women, as noted by pioneering female scholars, were likely to expand beyond prostitution, check kiting, and shoplifting to white-collar offenses as opportunities became increasingly available in the public sphere. Gender inequality in most criminal endeavors continues to exist and more recent debates continue about the role of women in white-collar crime.