Women in Business Are Risk Takers


We’ve heard it a million times – that women in business face the ultimate challenge of [by nature] not taking enough risks. Well, turns out that’s not so ture, at least not about women in business.

According to a survey by Boston’s prestigious Simmons School of Management, women business leaders don’t shy from taking risks, but rather take advantage of risky opportunities on a regular basis.

Existing empirical research on gender and risk suggest women are risk-averse, particularly assessments that measure risk through financial resource allocation, and health and safety precautions. But a survey of more than 650 women managers polled during the 2008 Simmons School of Management national leadership conference in Boston revealed that businesswomen are highly likely to take risks related to business or professional opportunities.

The survey looked beyond the traditional definition of risk-taking in terms of financial allocation scenarios to include business and professional opportunities taken. And the results prove that women take a lot of risks.

“When you actually unpack the research, the finding that women avoid risk is based on very specific contexts and a limited concept of risk-taking actions,” said article co-author Sylvia Maxfield, a professor at the School of Management. “By including contexts in which significant investments of time and money are placed in projects which require learning-by-doing, and where the likelihood of success is very hard to predict, we found women engaged in a lot of risk-taking actions.”

Change is a big risk, and it turns out women aren’t afraid to tackle it.

  • 80% reported pursuing a major change initiative “sometimes” or “often”
  • 79% reported pursuing a new program
  • 77% reported pursuing a new job
  • 56% reported pursuing a major business development opportunity

While the survey proves women’s risk taking nature, society still perceives women as risk-averse. Therefore, the study authors recommend that women highlight their risk-taking in order to enhance their career potential.

For the complete article, “Risky Business: Busting the Myth of Women as Risk Averse,” go to www.simmons.edu/som/cgo

Image Credit: ellievanhoutte, Flickr