Researchers from Rice University in US found that women are less tolerant of corrupt behaviour, but only in democratic governments, where appropriating public policy for private gain is typically punished by voters and courts.
"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 stigmatised, as in most democracies, women will be less tolerant and less likely to engage in it compared with men. But if 'corrupt' behaviours are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap," Esarey said.
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 revealed 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.
The study was completed in two parts. The first part of the study evaluated corruption at the national level, using data from three organisations that monitor and measure corruption: Transparency International, the World Bank Governance Indicators and the International Crisis Risk Group.
The data was collected on 157 countries between 1998 and 2007. The second part of the study evaluated attitudes towards corruption on an individual level in 68 countries, using data from the World Values Survey (WVS).
WVS surveys how much people tolerate corruption on an individual level. The data was collected between 1999 and 2002.