How Men and Women Approach Risk Differently

November 25, 2015

Our society portrays men as adventurous risk takers who are daredevils and seek any opportunity to climb the corporate ladder, scale tall buildings in a single bound and say yes to things that are dangerous. This is seen in movies and on television shows. Women used to be portrayed as homemakers, moms and busy wives who cooked and cleaned. The times are changing where women are now portrayed as taking risks, becoming CEOs and professional athletes who risk it all to win commendation and medals. It depends on the type of risk involved whether men or women pursue higher levels of risk.

Type of Risk

Risk is defined as exposure to danger, loss or harm. Men and women are impacted by their biology and sociology which makes up their personalities, passions and drives what careers and hobbies they pursue in life. There are studies which demonstrate men are more likely to pursue risky activities while under stress than women, who are less likely to pursue risky activities during periods of stress. Men have more emergency room visits and traditionally play riskier sports than women. One reason for this is the brain differences between men and women when it comes to computing risk and taking action.

Perceptions

Women are perceived to generally be more risk averse than men and are likely to be labeled as such by their society. This perception bias puts women at a disadvantage when it comes to setting them up for risk taking ventures. It is possible women are just as apt to take risks as men but they are not given as many opportunities since they are seen as more nurturing caregivers.

Role Models

As risk takers, women focus on the effect it will have on people rather than outcome. Men tend to focus on whether a particular risk will positively or negatively impact strategic objectives with women more worried about the impact on others. This is also why men are more apt to take health risks than women. In gambling, health and recreation, one study found women were less likely to engage in risky behaviors due to a negative outcome for herself or those around her. Women also reported less enjoyment from these activities and were less likely to participate than men. Overall, men are more likely to take risks when it comes to gambling, health and recreation including the use of illegal substances. Women are still susceptible to engaging in risky behavior but studies show they are less likely than men, choosing to maintain social cohesion over any perceived benefits of taking the risk(s).

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