Independent Thinking Blog

Are Women Risk Averse?

Doug Sundheim has written a business book about  risk. The book (which I have not read) has a number of stories–but only 18 percent feature women.

To his credit, Sundheim was a little appalled when he realized this. More important, he was curious as to what happened.

Are women risk averse?

In a thought-provoking post, Sundheim writes:

“Historically, risk-taking has been framed so narrowly that it skews our perceptions. For example, the majority of studies that point to men having a greater inclination for risk-taking define risk in physical and financial terms. They don’t point to risks like standing up for what’s right in the face of opposition, or taking the ethical path when there’s pressure to stray—important risks that I’ve found women are particularly strong at taking. If these sorts of risks were fully accounted for in our business culture, would it balance the gender perception? I think it would.”

Wow. I think Sundheim is on to something.

Obviously I don’t believe women are more risk averse either. But I also think that our brains (by nature or by nurture) are more wired than men’s to seek collaboration and consensus. This leads to perceptions about risk and ruthlessness that don’t always serve women well in the business world.

One example: women often tout team accomplishments more than their own. While men are taking credit, women are sharing it. So when it comes time to associate an accomplishment with a person, who do you think gets the brass ring?

What do you think?

Photo by Jo Munday (Flickr).

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