Sunday, March 8, 2009

Let's hear it for the girl!

Today is International Women's Day. I want to reflect on some data I just learned yesterday about the negative correlation between corruption and the presence of women in government. Transparency International ranks countries every year in terms of perceived corruption. There even a color coded map that I saw a few months ago at a presentation on Sarbanes-Oxley (don't ask) that reflects perceived corruption ranks.

Here is the 2006 map.

The book Traffic reported that studies showed a correlation between corruption and presence of women in government roles. One study apparently correlated TI's perceived corruption index with the number of women in cabinet positions finding that the more women in power in government, the less corrupt the government. The other study showed an increase in the number of traffic tickets in Mexico (that increase itself correlated with fewer accidents) was associated with more women police giving tickets because there were fewer bribes. Unfortunately, since I am listening to Traffic as an audio book I cannot check the references for these studies.

As tempting as it is to want to believe that women are less corrupt and should therefore be more in positions of power in governments, TI itself does not subscribe to the validity of this relationship. TI says:

Surveys of corruption experiences and perceptions of the past years have shown that women are less likely to pay a bribe. These findings have made analysts wonder if men are per se more corrupt than women.

A simple answer would be: no. A more complex one would be: we do not know yet.

Correlations between decreasing corruption levels and the growing involvement of women in politics can not be confirmed. Research seems to rather point to the fact that women have fewer resources as well as less access to institutions or networks where corruption occurs and therefore less opportunities for paying bribes.

It can not be taken for granted that women will be less corrupt than men or not form their own networks, once they have reached a higher level of representation at leadership level in society, politics and business.

So equality for all means that women are equally corrupt. I have certainly known some women whose ethics scare me. Lady MacBeth also comes to mind (notwithstanding her "out, damned spot" speech which is not an advertisement for "Shout"). But it would be nice to test the hypothesis by having more women in positions of power in governments throughout the world.

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