Women take more career risks when backed by women

29 Nov

For those who believe that women are more risk averse than men, then new research from the Australian National University suggests otherwise: it found that women do make riskier choices when surrounded and supported by women.

Professor Alison Booth, who tested students’ attitudes to risk-taking in all-male, all-female and co-educational environments, found that women were less likely to make risky choices than men – which she concluded was down to culture and belief systems that inhibit women from taking risks. However, after eight weeks in a single-sex environment, women behaved in a similar way to men, and were more likely to take risks. Male behaviour was not affected by the make-up of the group.

Professor Booth said that the findings had implications for gender equality in the workplace. “Recent studies in experimental economics have shown that, on average, women are more risk averse than men. If much of the remuneration in high‐paying jobs consists of bonuses linked to a company’s performance, relatively fewer women will choose high‐paying jobs because of the uncertainty. This is why these findings are important. They show that risk-taking behaviour is not necessarily innate – it can be affected by the environment in which the individual is placed. Given that risk attitudes can be shaped by the environment, changing the educational or training context could help address under-representation of women in certain areas.”

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