New York: Risky situations in any setting increases anxiety among women, leading them to perform worse under stressed circumstances, finds a new study.
Increased anxiety in risky settings is problematic for women because it may depress their ability to achieve.
"Women have worse task performance than men in risky situations, even when they have the same ability in a non-risky setting," said Susan. R. Fisk, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Stanford University.
In her study, Fisk relied on three experiments.
The first experiment was conducted online among US adults aged 18 to 81 to determine whether risky workplace situations increased the anxiety of women and men.
After participants finished thinking and writing about their scenario, they took an anxiety test.
Fisk found that when scenarios were framed in a risky way, women were more anxious than when the scenarios were framed in a non-risky way.
Women who received risky scenarios scored 13.6 percent higher on the anxiety test than those who received non-risky scenarios.
In the experiment that used the verbal SAT questions, participants were given 20 questions to complete and were told that they could bet money on each answer, making the situation risky.
Women answered about 11 percent fewer questions than men in this risky situation involving betting.
A similar effect was seen when using grades data from an undergraduate engineering course.
"People frequently encounter high-risk, high-reward situations in workplaces, and if women avoid these situations or perform more poorly in them because they are more anxious, they will reap fewer rewards than men," Fisk said.
Furthermore, the research suggests that failure in a risky situation is more costly to women as it may reinforce or create self-doubt about their own competence.
Women's anxiety and poorer performance in risky situations "may be an unexplored contributor to the dearth of women in positions of leadership and power, as success in these kinds of circumstances is often a precursor to career advancement and promotion", researchers concluded.