Women as Whistleblowers
Factors Motivating Public Whistleblowing
ANY SANE WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY encourages internal whistleblowing so that the problems can be corrected before there is public disclosure of the illegal conduct. An effective whistleblower policy therefore considers what factors will induce a whistleblower to report misconduct externally rather than internally and attempts to eliminate or at least ameliorate those factors.
Because so many women have become famous as whistleblowers, we examine the role of gender in this chapter.1 Female employee whistleblowers suffer more frequent retaliation than men, as discussed in this and the prior chapter. Because women are more likely to suffer retaliation for internal whistleblowing than men, women are more likely to become external whistleblowers.
In 2002, TIME magazine selected three individuals as “Person of the Year”: Each was a whistleblower in a large organization, and all were women. These women were Sherron Watkins, Cynthia Cooper, and Coleen Rowley, and a brief profile of each follows.
Sherron Watkins was a whistleblower in Enron. On August 22, 2001, Kenneth Lay, Enron's chairman, received a letter from Enron accounting executive Sherron Watkins that contained the following allegations:
I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals. My eight years of Enron work history will be worth nothing on my resume, the business world will consider the past successes ...