3 Reasons Why Women Fear Risk-Taking


Photo by Easton Oliver 

One of the hardest obstacles to overcome in life is fear. Fear of change, failure, and success can completely change a person's life. Fear is primal. Fear protects us. But there are ways to manifest that emotion and turn it into a beneficial part of your life. 

Ever sit back and wonder if that big decision you made was the right one? When determining risk factors for both options, did you take the safer route? 

Chances are if you are female, you chose the less dangerous path. According to Doug Sundheim in Harvard Business Review, "male risk-taking tends to increase under stress, while female risk-taking tends to decrease under stress." 

So what made you hesitate? Below are three reasons why women take fewer risks than men and how this fear affects their well-being:


The Likeability and Competence Duo 

There is a double bind when it comes to women who work. According to an article by Homaira Kabir in Forbes, "women are also up against subconscious biases that are more difficult to address, such as the "double bind" of likeability and competence." 

Instead of taking the risk to pursue a position with some uncertainty, some women would rather wait it out and bear the consequences. This can cause a ton of stress on their well-being over time.

But we are at an exciting time right now in our society, where more and more women are in leadership positions in big companies or a managerial role. It is impossible to remove risks and uncertainty. Nobody knows what's in our head and what is holding us back. We are our biggest critic. 

If we were able to be our own best friend and have the confidence that no matter what we face on the outside can break us on the inside, then we can slowly get rid of the crippling fear of trying to be perfect at all areas of our life. Also, chances are, people perceive you as a fantastic, smart person. So BE that person!


The Probability of Negative Outcomes

Women, in general, like to be more prepared for any uncertain circumstances that may arise than men. Negativity bias refers to the notion that we tend to overestimate risks and underestimate opportunities. 

Women are expected to do it all, but with their natural maternal instinct, it is common to take the more cautious route in even work situations. 

In many cases, the biggest risk is often not taking one at all. When fear holds us back from taking the chance on that new position (that we are more than qualified for), it creates a seed of doubt in our mind that lingers and grows with every decision we make. We cannot let the fear of adverse outcomes control us. 

Usually, when a risky decision is involved at work, there is the potential for growth. Looking for and embracing opportunities is the key to progress. The risks you take from now on will give you the knowledge and experience to draw from, and the strength to overcome your fears of possible negative outcomes!


Brain Activity 

Stress influences cognition. I think it is safe to say that when put in a stressful environment, everyone has felt their brain act a little differently in regards to decision making. 

But research has shown that brain regions involved in computing risk and preparing to take action, amplify gender differences. Mara Mather and Nichole Lighthall found that, "Stress amplifies gender differences in strategies used during risky decisions, such as males take more risks and females take fewer risks under stress." 

Instead of inundating ourselves with examples of yet again more reasons in today's society why women are "not enough," let's celebrate our differences. Instead of perpetuating the myth that all women are consumed by fear, let's give ourselves a positive pep talk. 

Women naturally have the instinct to look at all possible outcomes of a situation and be more cautious. If we are at work and are faced with making a decision that has risks, people have given that responsibility to us, and we have the knowledge and expertise to make that decision.