Here’s my latest sassy piece from The Glass Hammer…
In a New York Times opinion piece this weekend, Cambridge research fellow John Coates describes with compelling detail the way hormones influence the behavior of (male) traders. He writes, “[Testosterone] produced by men (and, in lesser quantities, by women) primes the trader for the challenge ahead, just as it does athletes preparing to compete and male animals to fight. Rising levels increase confidence and, crucially, appetite for risk.”
Considering the awe with which Coates narrates the effects of the chemical trio testosterone, adrenaline, and cortisol, you’d think he was channeling Sir David Attenborough. “Finally… the trader leans into his screen, pupils dilated, breathing rhythmic, muscles coiled, body and brain fused for impending action.”
Coates suggests that this biological interplay is so pronounced in younger men that it can drive markets to soar or crash.
His solution? More women. “Women and older men have a fraction of the testosterone of young men, so if more of them managed money, we could perhaps stabilize the markets,” he writes.
In Coates’ bleak description of the (male) trading mechanism, he envisions women as the brakes for a contraption spinning out of control. Calls for diversity are, of course, appreciated. But using women as a tool to gum up the works, rather than overhauling a system that overrewards risky behavior, seems more like a quick fix than a long-term solution. More seriously, it reduces individual humans to purposefully ill-fitting cogs in a corporate machine.
Would you want to work for a company that only hired you because it believes your biological construction is inherently ill-suited for the way its top performers make money?