No More Iniquity Inequity!

Women in the workplace steal far less than men do. It's time we did something about that.

woman stealing


Last month’s “Equal Pay Day”—the day that’s set aside to demonstrate how much extra work women must do to earn what men earn—touched off a tsunami of back-and-forth over the causes of inequality in the workplace. Do women make less money than men do because they take time off to have kids? Choose careers with less stress and responsibility (and easier college majors)? Are battered down by the male patriarchy?

These questions are way too thorny for me to answer. And anyway, I’m much more outraged by a new report that highlights a differential just as disturbing when it comes to gender relations. It provides incontrovertible proof that women lag far, far behind men when it comes to employee theft.

Just look at these statistics and tell me you don’t get hot under the collar: While women perpetrate most employee theft, the median loss in the crimes they commit is nearly 30 percent less than that stolen in the crimes of their male counterparts. Thirty percent! That, my friends, is unacceptable inequality. In the financial-services field alone, women are responsible for almost four out of five cases of theft, yet the median loss from male perps is 27 percent higher. In real estate and construction, the median loss in crimes committed by females is $257,000; for males, it’s $448,000. I ask you: What’s wrong with this picture?

In the category of professional services, women commit a hefty 91 percent of all employee thefts. This field’s an outlier, though, because nearly half those thefts involve law firms, and—let’s be frank—there’s no real crime in stealing from lawyers. (One for the ladies, I must say.) And the report, by specialty liability insurer Hiscox, does highlight some shining examples of feminine ingenuity, like the Illinois bank teller who made off with $2 million over 17 years by stuffing currency bags with other empty bags. (You go, girl!)

Overall, though, the crime scene is heavily tilted toward the patriarchy. Why? “It’s not because women are bad crooks,” Dee Studler, co-founder of a forensic accounting firm, assured the Wall Street Journal. “It’s because women hold lower-level authority positions with lax controls and a lot of cash access—bookkeepers, accounting clerks, office managers.” That leaves the ladies committing low-profile payroll fraud, with a median loss of $300,000, while men strut around committing vendor fraud, with an average take nearly twice that. And I for one hardly think that’s fair.

Of course, the onus is partly on us women to step up—to think seriously about how we can improve our share of the sum total of ill-gotten gains. As in all affaires du gender, the aspect of personal responsibility cannot be ignored. But the companies involved have a duty as well, to see to it that women are promoted into positions of authority and thus provided with the opportunity to steal much, much more. Men, do you want your daughters’ potential to commit fraud and embezzlement to be unfairly limited on account of their chromosomes? I can’t imagine you do.

I cannot for the life of me understand why there hasn’t been more public clamor about this gross injustice to women. It goes without saying that the government must also play a role in righting it. In fact, I’m calling for the immediate establishment of a Congressional subcommittee to examine what aspects of this untenable fraud differential might be traceable to Title IX. Perhaps every business should be required to have a Title IX specialist on staff to investigate and adjudicate examples of gender-depressed fraud. Joe Biden, what do you say? Will you take your usual audacious stand on this? All of those concerned must dedicate their best efforts to eliminating once and for all this pernicious inequity. Women, we owe it to ourselves to stretch just as far as men do when we take the bold step of stealing from our employers. The power lies in our hands. We only need to wield it more effectively.