The study of crime has been in existence for many centuries but has only gained prominence in recent times. This can be attributed to the popularization of criminal studies by the media. Psychologists and criminal profilers have been gathering valuable data about the reasons behind any criminal act and behavior. They have managed to do this by conducting interviews and studying infamous criminals such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer among others. One of the most acceptable conclusions regarding this matter is that criminality is a result of nurturing and personality.
To this effect, criminologists such as Edwin Sutherlands and Hans Eysenck have come up with various theories of crime that explore the various characteristics of criminals and the various factors that drive them into criminal activities. Among the various types of crime is a white-collar crime which has been in existence for a very long time. Crime, in general, has been associated with men culprits. However, data collected by various law enforcement agencies indicate that women have in the recent past been involved in criminal acts.
This proposal seeks to evaluate the reasons why women commit white-collar crimes. Answers to this question shall be provided through the analysis of relevant literature related to this topic. The findings from this research will be useful in identifying the causes and solutions of white-collar crimes. This will in the end help others make informed decisions on how to tackle such crimes thereby leading to a better society.
Literature review on white-collar crime
Edwin Sutherlands, as quoted by Strader (2002) defined white-collar crime as: “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” According to Sutherlands, the main focus in this definition was more inclined on the perpetrators of the crime (upper-class members of society) rather than why they did it. Throughout the study of crime, the general assumption regarding white-collar crime has been that criminal acts that fall under this category are often committed by people holding high positions of office in the course of their occupation.
Brodeur and Ouellet (2004), states that crime requires planning and an evaluation of the risks and the benefits. The execution of any criminal act depends on the occurrence of opportunities, the location, and the availability of targets. However, the extent of the crime depends on the belief system of the perpetrator. This means that if a criminal believes that committing a crime is justified, then there is no limit to what they can do.
According to Haantz (2002), political, economical, technological and social changes have greatly impacted o the role that women play in society. These changes have also led to a significant increase in women who participate in various forms of crime. While factors such as greed and needs have been used to justify and explain criminal acts such as fraud, forgery and embezzlement, this simple argument cannot help us understand why women are currently committing these crimes.
Haantz (2002), states that in 2001, 17.7% of the number of fraud cases filed by the internet fraud complaint center was perpetrated by women. These figures have increased significantly since then. In addition, the statistics provided by the Bureau of justice statistics indicated that there was a 55% increase in women convicted of white-collar crimes in various state courts. Such statistics show that women are aggressively taking lead in white-collar crimes. In as much as the source shows significant figures relating to women and white-collar crimes, the author does not factor in such variables as poverty and opportunity which contributes mainly to the execution of any crime.
In a recent study conducted by Judith Collins (Integrity in the corporate suite), the researcher tried to explore the various reasons as to why women in top positions commit white-collar crime (Hall, 2007). 71 women imprisoned for white-collar crimes and the 172 that currently held managerial posts were used as test subjects. The results indicated that there were notable differences between the two categories in terms of their socialization, peers, leadership and social dominance. These findings simply showed that the variables that lead men into committing crime were the same as those that influence women offenders.
By definition, white-collar crimes are assumed to be committed by people holding high positions of office or are respected in regards to their social status (Croall 2001). A recent study that compared the socioeconomic profiles of male and female white-collar crime offenders indicated that most women convicted of these crimes worked as clerical workers while the men worked in their capacities as managers and administrators. This study further showed that unlike popular beliefs, white-collar crimes are not only committed by influential people but also those who get opportunities to do so regardless of their occupation.
Strader (2002) asserts that non-social variables such as operant conditioning also played a pivotal role in reinforcing criminal behavior. Akers asserted that differential association with deviant peers to a large extent contributed to the introduction of deviant behavior in an individual. Statistics documented by the FBI showed that some (32%) of the women convicted of white-collar crimes were influenced in one way or the other by their peers or people that they knew. Green (2005), states that differential association is strengthened by differential reinforcement. This refers to the process through which new criminals learn how to gain from their acts and avoid being caught (See, 2004).
The theory asserts that an individual’s interaction with criminals may psychologically influence him/her to commit a crime. In regards to white-collar crimes, this would explain why most women offenders commit such crimes. They learn how to circumvent the laws and execute their crimes without getting caught. As Strader (2002) explains, key to a successful execution of white-collar crimes is the ability of the perpetrator to cover his/her tracks efficiently.
Data collection will be done through the field research method of research. As earlier mentioned, an evaluation methodology shall be used to design the procedures through which the purpose of this study can be realized. The participants for the interviews shall preferably consist of women working in the banking sector. The main participants will include women bank tellers (6), managers (4) and data analysts (10) within the sector. The factors that I will consider while recruiting the participants will include: duration of work (how long they have been working in the bank), level of supervision during working hours and their financial status. In total, I hope to interview at least 20 women in this research.
I estimate that each interview will take on average a total of 30 minutes and will spread evenly in ten working days (2 interviews per day). The reason behind this time schedule is that all of the respondents are often too busy and may not have thirty minutes to spare during working hours. As such, I have organized for the interviews to take place between 10: 00 am-10: 30 am and during their lunch break 12:15-1:15 pm. Working days are convenient for me because these employees reside in different locations and it would be hard to conduct the interviews after work or at their homes.
Since my topic is women and white-collar crime, I predict that I am going to face numerous challenges before I get the required response. To begin with, the women may refuse to talk to me because they view the topic as an offensive gesture linking them to criminal behaviors. In addition, the topic requires divulgence of sensitive information (how are white-collar jobs executed in the banking sector or weaknesses in banking systems that may provide opportunities for the execution of these crimes. To avoid such hustles I will ensure that I frame my questions indirectly and emphasize n the level of anonymity with which the information and the sources will be treated with.
As per the tellers, the interviews will be conducted at an agreed coffee shop during their breaks, I shall make appointments to interview the managers at their offices and the data analysts shall be interviewed during their breaks as well. These locations are convenient because they are in close proximity to the respondent’s working place and the time is within their schedules. The only disadvantage is that the times allocated are fixed but the participants’ schedules may vary. As per the locations, there is a high likelihood of interferences and noise which may hamper our communication efforts.
The questions that I intend to ask are as follows:
- In your perception, what do you think the term “White-collar crime” means?
- Why do women commit white-collar crimes?
- Do you believe that this type of crime is committed by women of high social and official status?
- If an opportunity presented itself, would you commit this sort of crime?
- In case you notice that a colleague is committing a white-collar crime, would you report the incident or would you ignore the situation?
So as to make the respondents feel comfortable, I would use an example of a previously stated crime to construct the situation that I need to be addressed. Through the example, I would then ask my questions stating them as hypothetical. The issue that leads to false information during such interviews is that the interviewer asks direct questions which makes the respondent feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Rephrasing the designed queries may therefore help in easing the tension. This would in the end facilitate in gathering the truth about the topic. Due to the environments in which the interviews will be conducted as well as the time limitation, I intend to record the interviews using a tape recorder and at the same time take notes during the interviews. This will enable me to clarify areas of contention as well as to compile accurate data.
Since I will be interviewing employees of specific banks, I have to ensure that I follow due process. To this effect, I shall organize an appointment with the human resource managers and get their written consent allowing me to conduct the interviews. In addition, I shall formulate a written agreement stating that all information shared by the respondents will at all times be kept confidential and will be used for research purposes only. Due to the time limit, I may be tempted to falsify the data gathered without interviewing the employees. To this effect, I shall make sure that I reference each interview accordingly and give contact details to the instructor in case confirmation is required.
Brodeur, J., & Ouellet, G. (2004). What Is a Crime? A Secular Answer. Vancouver, Toronto: UBC Press.
Croall, H. (2001). Understanding white collar crime. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Green, S. (2005). The Concept of White Collar Crime in Law and Legal Theory. Web.
Hall, A. (2007). Socio-Economic Theories of Crime. Web.
Naatz, S. (2002). Women and White Collar Crime. USA: National White Collar Crime Center.
See, E. Student Study Guide for Ronald L. Akers and Christine S. Sellers’ Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and Applications. Los Angeles, California: Roxbury Publishing Company.
Strader, J. (2002). Understanding White Collar Crime. USA: LexisNexis.