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Risky situations increase women's anxiety, hurt their performance compared to men
Date:8/16/2014

but, if they placed bets, they could earn as little as $5 or as much as $55, depending on how much they bet and the accuracy of their answers. Women correctly answered about 11 percent fewer questions than men in this risky situation involving betting, even after their general verbal SAT ability was taken into account.

A similar effect was seen when using grades data from an undergraduate engineering course. In this course, the midterm exam used an unusual grading methodology that required students to state their confidence in their answers. This created a risky setting because higher confidence in correct answers generated higher scores, while higher confidence in incorrect answers produced lower scores. On this test, a student could receive any score between -33 percent and 100 percent, and were guaranteed to earn 50 percent if they stated that they had no confidence in any of their answers. However, the final exam occurred in a setting that was much less risky, as it was impossible for students to lose points. Women's grades on the midterm were about 4 percentage points (about half a letter grade) lower than men's grades, even after their general ability in the engineering course was taken into account. On the final exam, there were no differences in the grades of women and men.

"My findings have troublesome implications for women's ability to achieve equality in the workplace," Fisk said. "People frequently encounter high-risk, high-reward situations in workplaces, and if women avoid these situations or perform more poorly in them because they are more anxious, they will reap fewer rewards than otherwise similar men."

Fisk believes that women's anxiety and poorer performance in risky situations "may be an unexplored contributor to the dearth of women in positions of leadership and power, as success in these kinds of circumstances is often a precursor to career advancement and promotion."

In response to her findings, Fisk sugg
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Contact: Daniel Fowler
pubinfo@asanet.org
202-527-7885
American Sociological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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