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Testosterone Influences Women's Career Moves

Those with higher levels of the male hormone take more risks, research finds

MONDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Higher testosterone levels may make some women more likely to choose high-risk financial careers, a U.S. study suggests.

"In general, women are more risk-averse than men when it comes to making important financial decisions, which in turn can affect their career choices," Paola Sapienza, an associate professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said in a news release. "For example, in our sample set, 36 percent of female MBA students chose high-risk financial careers such as investment banking or trading, compared to 57 percent of male students. We wanted to explore whether these gender differences are related to testosterone, which men have, on average, in higher concentrations than women."

For this study, Sapienza and colleagues measured testosterone levels in saliva samples collected from about 500 MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The students also took part in an experiment to determine the link between testosterone levels and risk aversion.

Higher levels of testosterone were associated with a greater taste for risk in women, but not in men. But in women and men with similar levels of testosterone, there was no gender difference in risk aversion.

The researchers also found that the link between risk aversion and testosterone predicted post-graduation career choices. Those with high levels of testosterone and low risk aversion were more likely to go into high-risk financial careers.

"This is the first study showing that gender differences in financial risk aversion have a biological basis, and that differences in testosterone levels between individuals can affect important aspects of economic behavior and career decisions," study co-author Dario Maestripieri, a professor in comparative human development at the University of Chicago, said in the news release. "That the effects of testosterone on risk aversion are strongest for individuals with low or intermediate levels of this hormone is similar to what has been shown for the effects of testosterone on spatial cognition."

The study appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

To learn more about hormones, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Chicago, news release, Aug. 24, 2009

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