Could the global financial market meltdown of 2008 have been avoided if Wall Street had more women executives?
That’s the starting point of new University of British Columbia research that will investigate the relationship between gender and risk in the male-dominated global financial industry.
Hazel Hollingdale, a PhD student in UBC’s Dept. of Sociology, hopes her research can help prevent future market crashes, while providing a greater incentive for financial firms to hire more women in senior roles.
Hollingdale will track regulatory transgressions to determine whether firms that employ more women have fewer criminal financial violations. She will also interview top executives in financial firms to improve our understanding of how gender dynamics and organizational culture impact financial decisions.
“If employing more women lowers the rate of irresponsible risky investments, it can help prevent future financial collapses,” says Hollingdale, who was announced today as one of 25 finalists for Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers student challenge. “The result could mean more stable economic markets and greater gender equity as well.”
The study explores the “Lehman Sisters” hypothesis – the theory that Lehman Brothers’ devastating bankruptcy resulted in part from a macho “culture of risk.”
While previous studies have found that women are more risk-averse and fiscally responsible than men, Hollingdale wants to determine if these findings carry over to women who work in the financial industry.
She also aims to confirm whether macho behaviours that are often rewarded in male-dominated sectors –such as taking unnecessary risks and being overly independent – can be found in the financial industry as well.
Video: SSHRC Storytellers – Lehman Sisters Hypothesis
The study will build on a growing body of research that suggests companies with women in senior roles make smarter financial decisions.
Hollingdale is one of four UBC graduate students among SSHRC Storytellers Top 25 finalists announced today, each with a short video. UBC’s other winners are Michael Muthukrishna (Dept. of Psychology), Klara Abdi (Faculty of Education), Daniel Manson (Dept. of Anthropology).
Learn more about the SSHRC Storytellers project here
Watch all the SSHRC Storytellers videos here.