Abstract Empirical findings of a negative association between female participation in politics and the labor market, and levels of corruption have received great attention. We reproduce this correlation for 177 countries from 1998 to 2014. However, once taking account of country-specific heterogeneity via fixed effects, these negative associations disappear, both in terms of statistical significance and magnitude. This suggests that female participation rates in politics and the labor market are not directly linked to lower corruption. Exploiting country-specific dimensions of culture, we then present evidence from pooled estimations suggesting that power distance and masculinity are systematically associated with both corruption and female participation rates. In fact, these two cultural characteristics are sufficient to fully explain the link between gender and corruption. Therefore, culture is an important dimension to consider when analyzing the relationship between female participation in society and corruption since the omission of cultural characteristics can produce a spurious correlation between increased female participation rates alone and reduced corruption levels.