What does success smell like in male-dominated sectors? Oxytocin

Does success have a scent – particularly in fields where testosterone is the main hormone? For women in male-dominated sectors, this is vital as it seems like the world has woken up to the power of our pheromones and oxytocin in particular. You may know the chemical peaks after sex and when mothers bond during breastfeeding with their babies. It’s not known as the killer hormone for building  ‘attachment and trust’ for nothing!

However, if there’s a finding that caught my eye as a professional speaker who works with audiences of women in male-dominated sectors. Indeed, it might make you want to spray the hormone in the house of finance you use. A European research team found that if young men sprayed the odourless chemical of oxytocin up their noses before playing a game of risk; they were more likely to take ‘social risks’. Risks, but maybe not in the way we think about then in financial services.

More specifically, men who sprayed were more willing to share money with their investment partners than men who simply sprayed a placebo. The simple scent facilitated trust and lowered their aversion to the possibility of being cheated by someone they were just getting to know. In effect, it made them better team members and more willing partners, increasingly the likelihood of better cohesion amongst teams.  

Interestingly, oxytocin also improved people’s commitment to their teams. A separate piece of research found when given an option to spend a ‘windfall’ amount of money on either themselves or their larger team, the men who’d sprayed the chemical in their noses were more than 3X as likely to spend their prize on their wider team than they were to hoard the ‘win’ for themselves.

Oxytocin helped ‘trick’ the brain into thinking they were in a psychologically safe environment – a win for any employer looking to improve their culture and foster co-operation. This is vital for women in male-dominated sectors to understand. Interestingly, it didn’t need to be the chemical in the air as just fist-bumping, nudging, handshaking and even high-fives have a similar effect something to remember as we come out of Covid!

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