It turns out that there IS at least SOME sort of biological reason for why women and men have traditionally tended to opt for different sorts of careers, according to a recent academic study.
An article published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details the findings of a research project conducted by the professors from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. The experiment, which covered more than 500 MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, specifically focused on whether or not testosterone levels could be seen to have a demonstrable impact on career choices. The answer was "yes."
The data uncovered a definitive link between higher levels of testosterone in the women in the study and their willingness to take on risk. When considering men and women with roughly the same levels of testosterone, there was no gender difference in risk aversion, according to the data: In both genders, individuals with higher levels of testosterone and lower risk aversion profiles tended to opt for high-risk financial careers.
“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 behavior and career decisions,” says Dario Maestripieri, professor in comparative human development, in a press release detailing the results. “That the effects of testosterone on risk aversion are strongest for individuals with low or intermediate levels of this hormone is similar to what has been shown for the effects of testosterone on spatial cognition.”
Of course, your team can't exactly go around testing all your employees' testosterone levels to see which ones are highest. But before you automatically discount a female candidate for a high-risk position (not that you WOULD, but I'm just saying) you might want to do a little more investigation on her past career choices and overall taste for risk.
I'll bet you already know which members of your team have a stronger risk aversion than others. Remember to account for that factor when you're considering someone for a high-risk assignment, because your list of candidates just might change and the results might surprise you.
Aside from the article referenced above, there is more from Kellogg about the study at this link.