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Gender and Career: Is Testosterone a Factor?

Study Shows Link Between High Testosterone Levels and High-Risk Jobs in Finance
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 25, 2009 -- Testosterone levels in women may affect their choice of career, according to a study.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined the testosterone levels of about 500 MBA students at the University of Chicago. Researchers measured their financial risk aversion with a computer game.

In the game, students could choose between taking a set payout of cash or playing a lottery. The students made the choice over and over again, with different levels of risk. The students with the lowest risk aversion took the lottery option the most often. 

Among just the women participants, there was a significant correlation between higher testosterone and lower risk aversion.

Among just the men, the correlation was not significant.

Two years later, when those same students had entered the working world, the researchers write that "individuals high in testosterone and low in risk aversion were more likely to choose risky careers in finance."

"This study has significant implications for how the effects of testosterone could impact actual risk-taking in financial markets, because many of these students will go on to become major players in the financial world," says Luigi Zingales in a news release, one of the study’s authors and the Robert McCormick Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "Furthermore, it could shed some light on gender differences in career choices. Future studies should further explore the mechanisms through which testosterone affects the brain."

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