Saturday, February 14, 2009

WMD #1: Testosterone

Male hysteria 
and the market meltdown
Toronto Star: Is the world of high finance hormonally challenged? It's usually women accused of hormone-driven behaviour, but men, it transpires, are also at the mercy of their biochemistry. And in few places more than the single-minded, avaricious, coarsely competitive, sharp-elbowed -- and overwhelmingly male -- finance sector, where risk-taking is the modus operandi and greed, at least until recently, was all good...

Heather-Anne Irwin, a former investment banker and equity specialist, now with Rotman School of Management [says]: 'I wouldn't blame the economic crisis just on testosterone, but I think a lot of it had to do with men not wanting to admit to other men that they didn't understand certain things that were happening... There's a lot of bravado, aggression, guys trying to position themselves. It's easy for group-think to take over.' Especially in a world where money equals status equals power.

In the past, whenever anyone suggested that the finance culture is too aggressively male, a surge of foaming sexist ridicule was unleashed. But not now... It isn't just the would-be alpha males in the day-trading room whose biology may have contributed to the current crisis. The hormonal ups-and-downs of sober-suited bankers, brokers and fund managers -- the more senior types who put together complex deals that took weeks, even months, to complete -- could have played an even bigger role.

Males are four times more likely than females to behave antisocially.
Image source here.