Washington: It's not only men, but women also make risky choices in professional life – particularly when they are surrounded by other women, says a new study.

An international team has based its findings on an experiment at Essex University, which tested whether single- sex classrooms in co-educational environments altered students' risk-taking attitudes.

Prof Alison Booth at the Australian National University, who led the team, said the results showed risk-taking in women came down to social learning and environmental factors, rather than inherent gender traits.

"We designed a controlled experiment using first- year university students who made choices over real-stakes lotteries at two different dates. Students were randomly assigned to classes of three types: all female, all male, and co-educational. They weren't allowed to change group subsequently.

"We found that on average women are less likely to make risky choices than men at both dates. However, after eight weeks in a single-sex environment, women were significantly more likely to choose the lottery than their counterparts in co-educational groups.

"Indeed, by week eight women in all-female groups behaved in a similar way to men. Once they are placed in an all-female environment, this inhibition is reduced," said Prof Booth.

The researchers said that the findings had implications for the labour market.

"Recent studies in experimental economics have shown that, on average, women are more risk averse than men. If much of the remuneration in high-paying jobs consists of bonuses linked to a company's performance, relatively fewer women will choose high-paying jobs because of the uncertainty," he said.

(Agencies)