From Scientific American:
What do Barry Bonds, Bernie Madoff, and James Murdoch have in common? They were all, in their respective areas, in it to win it – whatever the cost. Their appetite for success apparently disabled the moral compass that would have otherwise kept their dishonesty, greed, and hubris in check. The magnitude of these highly publicized ethical infractions may lead one to wonder whether folks like Barry, Bernie, and Jimmy were absent the day their kindergarten teachers talked about lying, cheating, and stealing. Recent research, however, suggests that ethical violations are somewhat predictable, that in fact there are specific circumstances, contexts, and individual characteristics that beckon us away from the moral high road.
One of the most notable risk factors for ethical laxity is one that all of the above offenders share: Being a man. A number of studies demonstrate that men have lower moral standards than women, at least in competitive contexts. For example, men are more likely than women to minimize the consequences of moral misconduct, to adopt ethically questionable tactics in strategic endeavors, and to engage in greater deceit. This pattern is particularly pronounced in arenas in which success has (at least historically) been viewed as a sign of male vigor and competence, and where loss signifies weakness, impotence, or cowardice (e.g., a business negotiation or a chess match). When men must use strategy or cunning to prove or defend their masculinity, they are willing to compromise moral standards to assert dominance.