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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay reviews the literature on gender and organized crime through time and in different countries. It also identifies lines of future research that could increase our understanding of the extent to which gender shapes organized crime and responses to it. Comparisons across cultures show that illegal market conditions mostly influence how gender shapes organized crime. Women are involved in many organized illegal activities, albeit in small numbers. Mafia-like groups specializing in extra-legal governance formally exclude permanent membership of women but occasionally grant them the status of trusted auxiliaries based on kinship ties. In contrast, illegal industries are more open to women’s involvement. Network analysis is needed for further insight into variation in women’s and men’s involvement across types of criminal organizations. Signalling theory and behavioural ecology are suggested as useful theoretical lens for explaining why mafia groups, as opposed to illegal industries, are gender-exclusive.

Keywords: gender exclusion, extra-legal governance, illegal markets, mafia, normative expectations, protection, recruitment, signalling theory, trust

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