Are Men Really Hard-wired to Take Risks?

Cordelia Fine in the Financial Times:

In 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the “Lehman Sisters” hypothesis was born. If only there had been more senior women in the banking industry, would the credit crunch have happened? Journalists, politicians and scientists speculated that the Lehman Sisters might indeed have saved us, on the grounds that “women managers are naturally more risk adverse,” as Neelie Kroes put it in a speech as European Commisioner for Competition in July 2007.

The idea that women — not so very long ago legally unable to own properties and securities — might be the saviours of the financial system may seem like a new and radical idea. But the notion’s heritage is an old one, both scientifically and politically.

Part of its cultural inheritance is a character I dubbed Testosterone Rex. You already know him. He was at that drinks party, telling us that testosterone is so potent that assumed average differences in testosterone levels between chief executives in mid-middle age versus late-middle age have a material, detectable influence on multi-party negotiations that involve discussions with the top management team, directions from the chair of the board and investors, and receipt of detailed financial advice from an investment bank. Testosterone Rex is, in short, the legend of that familiar scientific story that tells us risk-taking evolved more strongly in males than in females because of the greater reproductive advantages of status and resources for men in our ancestral past, and that these qualities are therefore wired into the male brain and fuelled by testosterone.

More here.

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