Women’s Work

3 minute read
Meredith Melnick

Gender isn’t supposed to matter in job performance. But increasingly, psychologists and neuroscientists are discovering that biological variables such as hormones deeply affect work-related qualities like risk taking and decisionmaking. Often the advantage falls to women.



Members of the “weaker” sex were no more likely to report combat-related PTSD than men according to a VA hospital study. And female vets reported pain less often than their band of brothers, even though lab studies show women have lower pain tolerance. “That suggests to me that women are underreporting to prove toughness,” says pain expert Rebecca Craft. Still, pretty tough.

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Male-to-female ratio of PTSD


Undue Force

24:1 Ratio of payouts

4:1 Ratio of officers, male to female

The LAPD paid out $66.3 million for police-brutality cases in the 1990s, 96% for acts by male officers



A real Master of the Universe might be a Ms. A 2009 study showed that 47% of male investors held on to stocks too long, compared with 35% of women. From 2000 to 2009, hedge funds run by women averaged annual returns of 9%, compared with the 5.82% achieved by men. Testosterone may cause men to ride a high-risk market rather than jump off in time.






2008 hedge-fund losses

Fatally injured drivers





The roads might be safer with more women behind the wheels of cabs and big rigs. Though both sexes share the road in equal numbers, from 1998 to 2009, 77.3% of fatally injured drivers were male because men more often take risks like driving drunk and speeding.


Pro Gamers

Gaming for a living is rare, and there’s a reason most of the pros are men. Brain scans of students playing a land-acquisition computer game showed more activity in the reward centers of male brains than of female ones. But that can lead to behavioral addiction, which 31% of males but only 13% of females reported in a separate study. All of that happens when men are merely playing the game; when they win cyberterritory, the neurological boost is even greater. This may have implications in the corporate world: research suggests testosterone fuels risky acquisitions among young male CEOs.

Addicted to video games




Pain: Why Women Suffer More

Female soldiers may do a good job of suppressing pain responses, but physiology doesn’t make it easy. Men produce endogenous opioids–neurochemicals that function as natural anesthetics–more abundantly than women do. Women are also more susceptible to inflammatory-pain disorders like fibromyalgia and arthritis, especially because estrogen can worsen inflammation. Even female newborns demonstrate higher pain sensitivity than male newborns. While popular wisdom says men are likelier to complain about their pain, researchers found that male study subjects cowboyed up and hid their suffering when a woman gathered the data.

Sources: Jrn. of Abnor. Psych.; Pain Med.; NCWP; Vanguard; NCRW; NHTSA; Jrn. of Psych. Rsrch.; Harris; Mgmt. Sci.; Federal Highway Adm.; Jrn. of Neuroscience; Endocrine Rev.; Jrn. of Pain

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