Corruption, Accountability, and Women’s Access to Power

Brenna Armstrong, Tiffany D. Barnes, Diana Z. O’brien, Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Corruption is sustained by powerful male networks, reinforcing women’s exclusion from politics. Yet, contrary to this conventional wisdom, we theorize that corruption can sometimes increase women’s access to power. Since women are often perceived as “cleaner” than men, where institutions allow heads of government to be held accountable on economic issues, chief executives may use women’s inclusion in high-profile posts to signal that they are curbing the abuse of public office for private gain. Examining upward of 150 countries over 16 years, we investigate whether and where corruption is linked to the presence of women finance ministers—a high-profile post capable of quelling economic malfeasance. We show that increases in corruption bolster women’s presence, particularly in countries with free and fair elections and presidential systems. That our results hold only in contexts of high accountability suggests this relationship is not endogenous but reflects chief executives’ efforts to preempt punishment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1207-1213
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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