There have been a few studies over the years that try to figure out the causality between corruption and leadership. A correlation has existed, known to researchers for some time, that as more women find leadership positions in a given government, corruption lessens in that government. However, the question remained whether or not that correlation is the result of more women coming to power as a reaction to corruption, thus replacing the problem with a new person, or if there was something else going on and these female leaders were actually effecting a change themselves. New research published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization points to the latter.
Studying 125 countries around the world, researchers Chandan Jha of Le Moyne College and Sudipta Sarangi of Virginia Tech found that corruption is indeed lower in governments with higher female representation, and this correlation exists on the local level as well. The interesting finding here is that both researchers believe what is happening is that women in government, on average, represent new policy ideas and in enacting new legislation are able to lessen the corruption. Using a statistical technique “known as the Instrumental Variable analysis, to account for the confounding factors,” the researchers believe that they have been able to show a proactive causality on the part of the women taking up leadership positions in changing the levels of corruption.
According to the researchers, this study suggests that while having more women represented in government can clearly help lower the corruption in a country, they are not inherently more moral than their male counterparts. If they were, the researchers believe that there would be a consistent correlation through all studies of gender and power positions.
Jha and Sarangi's research is the most comprehensive study on this topic and looks at the implications of the presence of women in other occupations as including the shares of women in the labor force, clerical positions, and decision making positions such as the CEOs and other managerial positions. The study finds that women's presence in these occupations is not significantly associated with corruption, suggesting that it is the policymaking role through which women are able to have an impact on corruption.
Since that is not true, this means that there is indeed something different happening with women in political office. The authors of the study believe the difference is the policy-making, and that female candidates tend to run on different policy concerns than men—specifically family, children and female welfare issues.