Michele Wucker published on the strategy + business blog on November 16, 2018
Imagine that your company is kicking off two projects. The first one entails the assumption of big risks, but it will pay off in a major way for the company if it succeeds. You need to pick one of your team members to run it, someone who manages risk well while under stress. The second project is considerably lower profile, and its manager will need to be someone who can operate autonomously in a situation where no level of risk is tolerable. Your top two lieutenants are a man and a woman. Whom do you pick to run which project?
If you use old gender stereotypes about risk aversion and risk tolerance to inform your decision, you’ll likely make a big mistake. Leaders who seek guidance in the old Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus paradigm will quickly lose their way, because when it comes to risk and gender, the relevant celestial orbs are Uranus and Neptune: two planets that are nearly the same size. Indeed, as Julie Nelson, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, notes in her book, Gender and Risk-Taking: Economics, Evidence, and Why the Answer Matters, 95 percent of the risk preferences of men and women overlap.