Girls face extra penalties than males once they take dangers.
Only 14% of skydivers are women, but that doesn’t mean they are risk averse.
There’s only 32 women among the chief executives of the 500 largest companies in the United States. As a result of this small number, the professionals are often advised to take more risks at work to increase your chances of reaching high-level leadership positions. This advice is based on Widespread claims that women are more risk averse than men, both at work and outside of it🇧🇷 Now, new research suggests that women may not be more risk averse than men, but actually encounter more negative reactions and consequences than men when taking risks at work.
The new study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly found “no evidence” for gender differences in risk-taking at work. These findings are in stark contrast to previous studies that found men were more likely to take risks. The study’s lead author, Thekla Morgenroth, a professor of psychology at Purdue University, explains that many previous studies have focused too much on risky behaviors typically associated with men. They explain: “If you ask people ‘how likely are you to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet?’ so, surprise, men are more likely than women to say they’ll do it. But if you ask people how likely they are to be horseback riding or cheerleading, which are also physically dangerous sports, the gender differences reverse.”
In other words, if you measure stereotypically male risks, not surprisingly, men are more likely to say they would participate. Women’s risk behaviors, such as undergoing cosmetic surgery, are often overlooked by researchers measuring risk tolerance.
Another widely used measure of risk tolerance is willingness to jump with a parachute. Only 14% of skydivers are women, but that doesn’t mean women are risk averse. Cordelia Fine, a professor at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study, points out in her book Testosterone Rex: “In the United States, being pregnant is about twenty times more likely to result in death than a parachute jump.” Indeed, if women truly avoided risk, the fate of humanity would be in jeopardy.
Women are penalized for taking risks, so they adjust their behavior
Researchers have uncovered yet another fascinating reason why women may be perceived to be taking fewer risks than men. Morgenroth explains, “Men and women are just as likely to take risks, but those risks don’t pay off in the same way.” This difference in returns impacted the likelihood that men and women would take the same risks in the future.
Women in the study reported more negative consequences when they took risks at work, making them less likely to take the same risks in the future. Men, on the other hand, reported more positive outcomes when taking risks at work.making them more likely to take similar risks in the future.
Why are women more likely to encounter negative consequences for their risky behavior? Taking risks is typically perceived as something that men do and, in general, women women are penalized for doing things typically associated with men. Previous research has shown that women are penalized at work for being ambitious, behaving assertively or even asking for higher wages, all because these attributes and activities are perceived as masculine.
As an example of how this plays out in the real world, Hillary Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri explained that while no male presidential candidate has ever had to hide their ambition, Clinton’s ambition during her candidacy made people “uneasy.”
In the study, researchers found that men and women were equally impacted by their own past risk experiences. That is, for both men and women, if the risk did not pay off, they were less likely to repeat it in the future.
To test this, the researchers created an experimental situation in which participants were randomly given approval or disapproval by a simulated supervisor for their risky behavior. Those who received positive consequences were more likely to take similar risks again. There was no gender difference in this behavior. Men and women were equally likely to participate in the risky behavior and were equally likely to be affected by the outcome.
However, when the women described their actual work experiences to the researchers, the women were more likely than men to report that they suffered negative consequences as a result🇧🇷 Men reported more positive consequences of their risks in real life and at work.
This risk reaction can leave women in a no-win situation. If they take the necessary risks to rise to leadership positions, they can be penalized for not behaving as they are expected to behave. If they don’t take risks, they may be seen as lacking the skills necessary for successful leadership.
The authors conclude that those trying to help professional women advance in their careers should not focus their efforts on getting women to take more risks. “Strategies to tackle gender inequality that focus on increasing women’s risk behaviors and messaging to ‘lean in’ are unlikely to be very successful, as long as there are unequal costs and benefits for men and women,” they write. Instead, they believe that efforts should be made to ensure that men and women receive the same rewards for taking the same risks.