Are Women More Risk Averse Than Men?

Very often the point is made that men and women are different. In the area of investment risk taking, some research suggests that women are more risk averse. Some of this research is referenced in the first of BlackRock’s three-part blog series on gender differences, Men vs. Women: Risk Aversion.

The first point is that the behavioral research generally shows that the structure of men and women’s brains is different to some degree.? Then add the significant physiological differences. This is why it has been said that “Men are from Mars” and “Women are from Venus”. The differences can be reflected in very different beliefs, values, attitudes including to taking risks.

I would like to clarify the difference in terms of risk taking more from the stand point of our DNA Behavior research, which has been independently validated. Our DNA Behavior research shows that the natural instinctive behavior of men and women is generally the same. That is based on natural behaviors as many men will take risks as women. This will be their decision-making starting point. The research is true of other behaviors such as taking charge, being outgoing or social, being empathetic, goal driven or creative. The fact is that there are women out there whose first instinct is to take risks. Similarly, on the other side, there are an equal number of men and women who are instinctively cautious. Again, there are men out there who by nature do not take risks.

However, it is also important to recognize the influence of “learned” behaviors on a person’s personality development or evolution. This is where the substantial differences between men and women can arise because they do have different values and attitudes coming from the differences in how their brain’s are structured and the physiological differences. For instance, what we see is that a woman may be naturally (instinctively) a risk taker but her nurturing attitude to protecting the family will kick through and lead to cautious behaviors. Or, in the case of another women she may be born cautious but have to at times take risks to generate income and capital for the family. But, there will still be an overriding careful attitude to it.

The main point here is not to automatically assume all women will be naturally more risk averse than men.

The same point is true for advisors who think that the men make all of the decisions in doing the financial planning. In some cases the man may lead the process as head of the household and bread winner, but he may not be the power player in making decisions – the women may be far more take charge and direct the decision-making.


Hugh Massie is a Human Behavior Strategist, successful entrepreneur and a leader of the “behavioral awareness” revolution in businesses worldwide for unlocking human potential. He has 26 years of unique and diverse international experience in developing client centered human behavior solutions.


Visit the Financial DNA website to learn more about helping couples improve financial and life decisions through an enhanced relationship with money.

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