Fisk wins Marjorie Lozoff Graduate Prize

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Fisk wins Marjorie Lozoff Graduate Prize

Sociology graduate student studies why women are discouraged from taking risks

by Gender News staff on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 9:15am

image o f Susan FiskRisk-taking comes in many forms—starting a business, volunteering for a difficult assignment at work, asking a special someone on a date. Risky behavior can be dangerous. But avoiding risk has its own consequences, such as missed opportunities and decreased profits.

Women are less likely to engage in risk than men, according to research, and women are proportionally underrepresented as entrepreneurs, business leaders, and politicians. Sociology graduate student Susan Rebecca Fisk is seeking to explain this gender gap in risk-taking. In recognition of her research, Fisk has been awarded the Clayman Institute's 2013 Marjorie Lozoff Graduate Prize. 

Fisk believes that we react differently to risky behavior depending on who takes the risk. According to her theory, our society encourages risk-taking in men. When women take risks—especially risks that fail—we doubt their judgment and their competence.

"If women receive greater penalties for failure in risk-taking domains," explained Fisk, "this may cause them to take fewer chances, curtailing their share of wealth, status, and power."

Clayman Institute's Marjorie Lozoff Graduate Prize supports Fisk's research

In a previous experiment to test her ideas about risk, Fisk found that risk-taking women were less likely than men to be picked as a research study partner. Funding from the Marjorie Lozoff Graduate Prize supports a second experiment that Fisk will conduct on the topic of risk-taking.

“Susan Fisk’s research on how gender stereotypes influence perceptions of risk helps unearth the reasons why women are proportionally underrepresented among entrepreneurs, business leaders, and politicians."

In this study, college students, non-profit lenders, and high-tech workers will evaluate fictitious profiles of women and men in the workplace. According to Fisk, "The goal will be to see whether women are viewed as less hirable and competent than otherwise similar men if they have taken an unsuccessful risk—for example, starting a business that went under.”

The prize honors the memory of Marjorie Morse Lozoff, who died in 2002. As a wife, mother, sociologist, social worker, teacher, researcher, and community leader, Marjorie Lozoff served as a model for the idea that most deeply absorbed her: furthering women's development for the benefit of women, men, children, and society.

“Susan Fisk’s research on how gender stereotypes influence perceptions of risk helps unearth the reasons why women are proportionally underrepresented among entrepreneurs, business leaders, and politicians,” said Andrea Rees Davies, Director of Programs and Research at the Clayman Institute. “The Marjorie Lozoff Prize recognizes the potential of Fisk's innovative research project to promote gender equality in business and politics.”

Marjorie Lozoff

Currently, Fisk is a fifth-year graduate student at Stanford, a Ric Weiland fellow, and a member of the Clayman Institute's student writing team. Before graduate school, she worked as a strategy consultant at Dean & Company, and she graduated with highest honors and highest distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in economics and public policy. In addition to her work on risk, Fisk’s research interests span the range of social-psychology, gender, status, and economic sociology.

"Winning this award demonstrates how indebted I am to the wonderful teachers who have shaped me into the writer and scholar I am today,” said Fisk. “I would have never won this award without Dr. Joel Schwartz [at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill], who taught me how to write, my adviser Cecilia Ridgeway, and my mentors at Stanford, who have forever changed the way I view the world by enlightening me about social psychology and gender."  

The $1,000 prize will be formally presented to Fisk at a lunch with the Lozoff family.