Women can be just as risk-taking as men or even more so when the conventional macho measures of daring, such as betting money at a high stake poker game or riding a bike without a helmet, are replaced by less stereotypical criteria, reveals a new study.
Assessment of heroism, bravery or audacity often focus on traditionally masculine behaviours such as gambling or skydiving. However, when this bias is addressed, women and men tend to rate themselves as equally able to take risks, revealed the study.
“Traditional measures of risk-taking tend to overlook the fact that women take risks,” said Thekla Morgenroth, researcher at the University of Exeter in the UK. “When people imagine a risk-taker, chances are that the person they picture will be a man. In other words, in our culture, risk is strongly associated with masculinity.”
In the study, published in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, the researchers analysed 238 people in two experiments. When stereotypically masculine criteria such as gambling at a casino or going white-water rafting were used, men rated themselves as more likely to engage in risk-taking.
Conversely, when new behaviour was included, such as taking a cheerleading class or cooking an impressive but difficult meal for a dinner party, women rated themselves as equally or more likely to take risks.
“Understanding the nature of gender differences in risk taking is particularly important as the assumption that women are risk averse is often used to justify ongoing gender inequality — such as the gender pay gap and women’s under-representation in politics and leadership,” noted co-researcher Michelle Ryan, a professor from the varsity.