Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Differences Between Men And Women: Risk-Taking

One of FLG's professors once mentioned something about some disparity between men and women, FLG forgets what it was, and chalked it up to discrimination. FLG pointed out that differing risk aversion could also explain the disparity. The professor said, "Yes, it could, but I don't know of any empirical studies that indicate greater risk aversion among women."

After class, FLG looked it up and, well, he began to question the professor's statement. It's not so much that the prof wasn't aware, but that he probably never bothered to look. Because FLG found study after study that found women are significantly more risk averse than men.

Anyway, FLG was reminded of this because a blogger at the WaPo says that risk aversion is holding back women's career progression:
Perhaps it's the fear of a risk back-firing that restrains us. Donna Callejon, chief operating officer at GlobalGiving, shared her own observation of this trend when she noted, "I regularly see a pattern of younger women who are not sure what they want to do and are afraid to take a wrong step. They seem to think if they screw up, they won't be able to bounce back." Could it be that we disqualify ourselves from plum assignments, projecting that the potential damage could be permanent?

Interestingly, the discussion touches upon FLG's theory that men care less about society thinks of them, which kind of makes sense. Part of the risk a person takes is embarrassment and other social consequences. If those matter more to you, then you're less likely to take risks:
Girls learn about risk differently. Risky behavior, girls are told, is dangerous. For many young women, perfection is the more popular state for which to strive. Being simultaneously popular, a top student and pretty becomes a recipe for greatness. As you get older, this ideal morphs into Superwoman syndrome--the pressure to be that strange creature with endless energy who manages to be smart, unflappable, beautiful and selfless. And always at the same time.

FLG isn't sure he buys the girls are conditioned to be risk averse, so if we could just recondition them, then we could eliminate the disparity argument. Like most thinks he thinks it's a combination of Nature and Nurture. You're never going to get rid of the entire disparity. Although, to be honest, we probably don't want to get rid of it entirely. Moreover, he thinks it's largely a function, not of risk taking, but,as he indicated earlier, of the greater emphasis placed by women upon what other people and society think of them.


David said...

An aviation magazine had an item on differences in accident patterns between male and female pilots. The accidents in which the women were involved tended to involve deficiencies of skill (viz running off the runway in a crosswind), the accidents men were involved in showed a higher % of judgment-related issues (viz going below minimums on an instrument approach)...the second type of accidents had a higher fatality rate.

Anonymous said...

The previous commenter - David- jooged a memory. If you study the early days of this country and look into the fate of those captured by Indians throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony - you will see that the mortality rates of captured men is *much* higher than the women in the same posish.

From the numbers it is easy to conclude that the women adapted to their conditions, even becoming accustomed to living with the Indians and intermarying. Or more interestingly really, if given by the Indians to the French Catholics- -exchanging their religion - from Puritan or Protestant to Catholic and more often than not, remaining in Canada when they could've returned to their homes. The men were far more likely to fight their captivity and end up dead.

But then there's always the shining example of Hannah Dunston. She broke all sorts of ideas about gender.

Mrs. P

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