Gender and risk: women, risk taking and risk aversion

Sylvia Maxfield (Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Mary Shapiro (Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Vipin Gupta (California State University, San Bernardino, California, USA)
Susan Hass (Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Publication date: 5 October 2010



Labeling women as risk‐averse limits the positive benefits both women and organizations can gain from their risk taking. The purpose of this paper is to explore women's risk taking and reasons for stereotype persistence in order to inform human resource practice and women's career development.


The paper draws on literature about gender and organizations to identify reasons for the persisting stereotype of women's risk aversion. Utilizing literature and concepts about risk appetite and decision making, the paper evaluates results of the Simmons Gender and Risk Survey database of 661 female managers.


The paper finds evidence of gender neutrality in risk propensity and decision making in specific managerial contexts other than portfolio allocation.

Research limitations/implications

More in‐depth research is needed to explore the gender‐neutral motivators of risk decision making and to explore risk taking in a more diverse sample population.

Practical implications

The paper explores why women's risk taking remains invisible even as they take risks and offers suggestions on how women and organizations may benefit from their risk‐taking activities.


The paper synthesizes evidence on risk taking and gender, and the evidence of female risk taking is an important antidote to persisting stereotypes. The paper outlines reasons for this stereotype persistence and implications for human resource development.



Sylvia Maxfield, Mary Shapiro, Vipin Gupta and Susan Hass (2010) "Gender and risk: women, risk taking and risk aversion", Gender in Management, Vol. 25 No. 7, pp. 586-604

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