BE A RISK-TAKER: 4 WOMEN SHOW YOU HOW

The ben­e­fit of em­brac­ing risk is a favourite topic for re­searchers, and so is the stereo­type that women don’t do it enough. But we can be risk-tak­ers, and here are four women who prove it.

Canadian Living - - Front Page - BY STACY LEE KONG

Con­ven­tional wis­dom says women avoid risk at all costs—we don’t tend to in­vest, take chances at work or flock to ex­treme sports.

But the con­ver­sa­tion is ac­tu­ally much more com­pli­cated. For starters, women do take risks—just not al­ways in the same way as men. Tra­di­tion­ally, what counts as risky be­hav­iour is what the now-re­tired psy­chol­o­gist Marvin Zuck­er­man calls “sen­sa­tion-seek­ing”—when peo­ple crave a rush from men­tal or phys­i­cal stim­u­la­tion. Sen­sa­tion seek­ers dis­like bore­dom and search out new ex­pe­ri­ences, which is why you’ll find them sky­div­ing or play­ing the stock mar­ket.

But the def­i­ni­tion of risk is broader than that. In her 2016 book, The Art of Risk: The New Sci­ence of Courage, Cau­tion and Chance, Amer­i­can au­thor Kayt Sukel cites a re­view of lit­er­a­ture that found women take tons of risks. “They just don’t tend to go all in when it comes to…mone­tary gam­bles,” she writes. “Where you’ll see women show­ing a good bit of risky be­hav­iour is the so­cial arena, which may be a place they feel more com­fort­able tak­ing on un­cer­tainty…. Women are much more likely to bring up an un­pop­u­lar is­sue with a group or even change ca­reers later in life than men are—things that are fairly risky when you thor­oughly con­sider them.”

And, for the record, even when it comes to tra­di­tional risks, the gen­der dif­fer­ence may not be as fixed as pre­vi­ous stud­ies would sug­gest. A 2012 re­view of lit­er­a­ture by Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts Bos­ton eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor Julie A. Nel­son found that, de­spite the per­cep­tion women are more risk-averse, there was ac­tu­ally a lot of over­lap be­tween men’s and women’s be­hav­iour. It was sim­ply masked by re­searchers’ con­fir­ma­tion bias. (They ex­pected a dif­fer­ence, so they saw one.)

That’s why it’s worth think­ing about so­cial pres­sure. If con­ven­tional wis­dom says ex­treme sports aren’t la­dy­like or girls aren’t good at math, it’s no sur­prise that we might avoid these en­deav­ours. But the ris­ing num­bers of fe­male ath­letes, en­trepreneurs and in­vestors sup­port the idea that at least part of what makes us riska­verse is nur­ture, not na­ture.

We spoke to four women who ex­em­plify that risk-tak­ing ethos. Here’s what they had to say about not let­ting fear get in the way, over­com­ing ob­sta­cles and the long-term ben­e­fits of tak­ing chances.

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