Corruption’s Gendered Double Standard

On November 8, 2016 the United States almost elected Hillary Clinton as its first female president. But, if Donald Trump and many of his supporters were to be believed, Secretary Clinton was also one of the most corrupt politicians of all time. This argument appears to have swayed many American voters, who ended up electing Donald Trump (who might actually be the most corrupt person recently elected to the presidency, see here, here, and here). That Trump’s unprecedented accusations of corruption were leveled against the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major political party was not a coincidence.

A great deal of commentary has considered whether women (and especially female politicians and public officials) behave less corruptly than men. (For some prior discussion on this blog, see here.) But I’d like to focus on a different question: Are female politicians accused of corruption treated differently—and judged more harshly—than male politicians? Existing research suggests that they are, which in turn may explain both why allegations of corruption can be more damaging to female politicians, and why female public officials are on the whole less corrupt. Continue reading

Guest Post: Gender Equality in Parliaments and Political Corruption

Priya Sood, Program Advisor at the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) contributes this guest post, in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8):

Does the extra X chromosome make political leaders less likely to bribe, pilfer, and lie? Are women across the board less corrupt?  According to recent research by GOPAC’s Women in Parliament Network, the reality is far more nuanced.

GOPAC conducted research based on a ten-year analysis of trends in the proportion of women elected to national parliaments as correlated to trends in national corruption levels. Surprisingly, the findings showed no general worldwide correlation between changes in parliamentary gender balance and changes in political corruption.  However, when GOPAC examined countries which have traditionally been strongholds of parliamentary democracy, the picture changed. In countries with reasonably robust democratic systems that enforce their anticorruption laws–but only in those countries–an increase in the number of women in parliament will tend to reduce corruption.

In addition to that general finding, GOPAC’s research on legislative gender equality and corruption also suggests a number of potential reforms that would help further both gender equality and anticorruption:

  • Legislation to mandate parliamentary oversight of government use and management of state financial instruments
  • Rules within political parties that commit a party to fielding a minimum number of candidates of each gender in general elections
  • Increasing female political leaders’ capacity and understanding of financial oversight mechanisms

For a more evidence that the women’s political participation tends to reduce corruption in strong democracies, but not elsewhere, see recent research by Justin Esarey and Gina Chirillo.