08:17 26 August 2009
Known for their tough exterior and take no prisoners attitude, new research has revealed that the ruthless women at the top may have had a helping hand from nature.
Scientists have discovered that women with higher levels of testosterone are likely to be risk takers.
The study showed that the boardroom battleaxes and Deborah Meadens of the world are likely have some assistance from the male hormone, with their risk taking attitude helping them break through the glass ceiling in business.
Researchers tested 500 MBA students at the University of Chicagos business school, taking saliva samples from both genders to measure testosterone levels, as well as documenting markers such as finger length (longer ring fingers than index fingers in women can suggest prenatal testosterone exposure).
Participants were then asked to play a computer game which assessed their attitude to risk. After answering a series of questions, the students were then asked to decide between playing it safe by taking a guaranteed monetary reward or a lottery with a potentially higher payout.
The US study found that the females with higher levels of testosterone were more likely to take the gamble.
Also, the link between risk aversion and testosterone was recognised as a predictor for career choices, with women showing higher levels opting for high-risk businesses such as trading or investment banking.
While previous studies have shown the male hormone to affect aggression and competitiveness, this is the first time research has identified the impact it has on career choices.
Dario Maestripieri, report co-author, said: "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 behaviour and career decisions."
The new paper, Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone, has been published in the August edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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