Can women learn to take more risks?

Washington: According to a recent study, men often take more risks than women. The reason for that is the gender difference, which has been cultivated due to the patriarchal way of society. Although, the researchers found that these differences can shift in children when they are introduced to different cultures.

The study suggests that those gender differences in risk aversion are shaped by culture and the social environment. “Environment is extremely important in shaping risk aversion, if we can teach girls that they should be more risk loving, perhaps that will shape their future decision-making,” said Elaine Liu, lead author of the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers looked at the behaviour of children from two distinct cultures, the matrilineal Mosuo and the traditionally patriarchal Han and they all attended the same school in Yunnan, China.

When the children first began elementary school, Mosuo girls took more risks than Mosuo boys, while Han girls were less likely to take risks than Han boys, in keeping with their parents’ cultural norms. However, that began to change as the children were exposed to other cultures.

It worked both ways. Mosuo girls became more risk-averse, while Han girls became more risk-loving.
They measured students’ attitudes toward risk-taking through a lottery-style game, offering the students six choices ranging from a guaranteed three-yuan payout to a 50/50 per cent chance of winning 10 yuan or nothing. Ten yuan would allow the children to buy five notebooks or about five popsicles at a local store; the amount of the reward was chosen after consulting with the school principals.

“There was a convergence, the Mosuo girls took more risks than Han girls at the beginning, but their attitudes toward taking risks become more similar as they spent more time together, ” explained Liu.
The researchers studied children from elementary school and middle school, although it’s not clear if the changes will be sustained after they return to their home village.

The researchers conducted their research in Yunnan, a province in southwestern China because it is one of the few places where children from cultures with distinctly different gender norms come together in one place.

Gender norms are slow to change, but there are social influences that could play a role in how we shape that behaviour. This could have long-term economic consequences, even potentially shrinking the gender pay gap if it led to women choosing riskier but higher-reward career paths.