Testosterone Levels and Wall Street

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on January 5th, 2018
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John Coates, neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, said the 2008 global financial crisis was caused by a glut of testosterone on Wall Street. According to his research on hormonal changes in securities traders, the male hormone surges when the stock market rallies. Testosterone boosts aggression, encourages risk taking, and stirs up confidence. Coates meant that the aggressive investment tendency of Wall Street executives, most of whom are men, was the cause of the crisis. Entrepreneurship requiring the taking of a risk on something that looks impossible needs testosterone, however.

Some say had Lehman Brothers been "Lehman Sisters," the financial crisis would not have happened. A decline in gender-based discrimination in workplaces clearly leads to higher productivity and performance. According to McKinsey & Co.`s publication “Women Matter 2010,” companies with a higher proportion of women on the board of directors show a much higher return of equity and average pretax income than those with a lower proportion. The existence of female executives negatively affects share prices, however. Frank Dobbin, a sociology professor at Harvard University, said in the Harvard Business Review that a sexist attitude against women produces such a result.

Carly Fiorina made a splash by taking the helm of Hewlett-Packard, but her performance remains controversial. By contrast, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi remains highly regarded for her achievement to move Pepsi Cola, which had long been the runner-up in the cola wars, to the top spot. The situation of female CEOs is different from female politicians. Politicians are judged by representation, but CEOs are judged by performance. France enacted a law in January making it mandatory for large corporations to allocate at least 40 percent of their top positions to women within six years.

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee said, “Women should be allowed to be CEOs down the road.” His trust in his two daughters, who play an active role in the conglomerate`s management, apparently swayed him toward such an idea. Just 13 female executives work at the electronics giant and the number of female executives in Samsung Group is 34. The Economist magazine said last year, “If South Korean firms won`t make use of female talent, their rivals will.” Making use of those with talent regardless of gender is important.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)

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