Great balls of fire! More testosterone makes women take more risks


Women with higher levels of testosterone are more likely to choose riskier careers in finance than those with lower levels of the male hormone, according to a recent study.

Women tend to be more cautious than men when it comes to financial decisions, and the study confirms that biology plays a role in those differences.

The research was conducted by professors at the Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago. It's no surprise that testosterone is linked to risky behavior, as many studies have shown.

Take a walk through the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and you'll see that the place oozes testosterone. But what's new here is the link between testosterone and risky behavior in women.

"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," says Dario Maestripieri, professor in comparative human development at the University of Chicago, in a story on the school's Web site about the study.

Researchers took saliva samples of 460 MBA students to measure testosterone levels. Most were similar in age, cultural and educational background, and socioeconomic status.

During the study they played computer games and answered questions that measured their willingness to engage in risky behaviors, such as choosing a lottery versus a guaranteed payout of money. Also, 36% of the female MBA students picked high-risk careers such as investment banking or trading, compared with 57% of male students.

Although women with more testosterone had a higher appetite for risk, levels of the male hormone didn't seem to make a difference for men. There also was little difference in risk taking among men and women with similar levels of testosterone.