The Gendered Consequences of Risk-Taking at Work: Are Women Averse to Risk or to Poor Consequences?

Thekla Morgenroth*, Michelle K. Ryan, Cordelia Fine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Women are seen as more risk-avoidant in the workplace, and some have argued that this contributes to occupational gender gaps. Across two correlational and three experimental studies (total N = 2280), we examined the role of consequences of workplace risk-taking in determining the likelihood of taking future risks at work. We found no evidence for overall gender differences in initial risk-taking, and women and men anticipated similar consequences for risks with which they have no experience. However, this stands in contrast to the consequences of risk-taking they have experienced. Here, men reported on average more positive consequences, even for those risks that are more normative for women, translating into a higher likelihood of taking the same risks again. When faced with the same consequences, women and men were equally likely to take the same risks again. Our findings challenge the simple assumption that women are averse to workplace risks and suggest that if and when women do avoid risks, it is because their risk-taking leads to less rewarding consequences. Workplace gender equality initiatives should therefore tackle any inequities of consequences rather than encouraging women to “lean in” and take more risks. Additional online materials for this article are available on PWQ’s website at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/03616843221084048.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-277
Number of pages21
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Volume46
Issue number3
Early online date18-Apr-2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1-Sep-2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • gender
  • gender differences
  • risk-aversion
  • risk-taking
  • workplace gender equality

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