Michele Meyer-Shipp, KPMG’s Chief Diversity Officer

Will Women Take Big Risks at Work?

Jan. 31, 2019
In a study conducted by KPMG less than half (43%) were open to taking big risks that are associated with career advancement.

While risk-taking is often the one characteristic that moves careers forward, women seem to have mixed views on its value. In a study," Risk, Resilience, Reward," of over 2,000 professional women conducted by KPMG LLP,  less than half (43%) were open to taking big risks that are associated with career advancement.

A larger number (69%) were open to taking small risks to further their careers.

“When it comes to their careers, many women find themselves in a bit of a bind," said Michele Meyer-Shipp, KPMG’s Chief Diversity Officer, in a release announcing .the study's findings. "They’re trying to preserve their gains, so instead of playing to win, they’re often playing not to lose – whether hesitating to take perceived big risks or feeling the need to take outsized chances.” 

Time does affect the risk-taking perspective though. Women with less than five years of experience are more willing to take risks, (45%), compared to those with over 15 years experience (37%).

Race also has its influence with women of color willing to take risks at a higher rate ( 57%) versus white women ( 38%).

There are reasons for taking a risks and improving a financial situation is one of them. Forty percent of the women said that the opportunity to make more money is a reason to take a risk, however, only 35% said they were confident about asking for a higher salary. 

And there is a general understanding that there is are rewards that come with taking risks. When asked how risk-taking impacted their careers the responses were as follows:

--48% It helped me to be more confident in my abilities

--45% It has allowed me to gain a whole new set of skills

--33% It helped me build respect among my colleagues

--28% It has allowed me to progress more quickly. 

Advice on Risk-Taking

As women are taking on even greater leadership roles in business and society, and as more opportunities arise, women must be proactive in seizing them, the study concludes. “It starts with confidence," said Laura Hay, Global Head of Insurance at KPMG, in the report. "Success in business correlates as much with confidence as it does with competence. And acting with confidence breeds confidence.

The study offeres some advice.

--Make a conscious effort to ask for what you want. This requires being clear about your true motivations, wants and needs. Such self-knowledge is the foundation for confidence and greater assertiveness.

--Be aware of the impression you make – particularly your body language and tone of voice: establish your space, speak in a lower register (which some studies say can increase your sense of confidence and power) and maintain eye contact.

--Speak early, often and calmly. Even more important – have a point of view; don’t just act as a facilitator. And don’t be afraid to defend your position.

--Finally, take risks. No risk, no reward. We all know this, but fear of failure can sometimes prevent us from taking that critical next step. So, work on your mindset. Get comfortable with the idea of failure and develop strategies to build credibility so a failure won’t derail you. Think like an athlete: they face failure every day but quickly learn to recover and move on. Remember: the more risks you successfully navigate, the more confident you’ll become, and the more risks
you’ll be willing to take. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Companies can also play in role in helping women achieve.  “Organizations must provide supportive structures including inclusive and diverse workplaces, professional development, mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, all of which set up women to achieve, thrive and reach the highest levels,” said Meyer-Shipp. 

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