Why risk-taking is vital for women to become leaders in the workplace

Nearly half of women said risk-taking helped them feel more confident in their abilities, according to a KPMG report.

Why risk-taking is vital for women to become leaders in the workplace

When it comes to job advancement, risk-taking can make a significant impact on a woman's career path, according to a KPMG report released on Friday. Nearly half (48%) of female employees surveyed said risk-taking helped increase their confidence in their abilities at work, and 55% said they believe people who take more risks progress further in their careers than others, the report found.

The report surveyed more than 2,000 professional women in the US between the ages of 18 and 64. Some 45% of women said risk-taking helped them gain a whole new set of skills, and 33% said it helped them build more respect among their colleagues, according to the report.

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Despite believing risks could help them advance professionally, less than half (43%) of women said they feel comfortable taking risks, the report found. The biggest reason women don't take risks is because of a lack of confidence.

Some 41% of women reported being concerned with taking risks because they are afraid of looking like they don't know as much as they should in the workplace. Additionally, 40% of women said they believed that if they took risks, they would end up just being ignored or not taken seriously, and 37% said they were scared to take risks because they were scared to fail, the report found.

Women's fears are often valid: Despite reporting similar experience levels and occupying the same positions, entry-level women are 21% less likely than their male counterparts to reach the first level of management, according to a report from Bentley University. In the tech field in particular, only 49% of women said they feel that both genders are treated equally in the workplace, an Indeed report found. Another 67% of women said they feel underestimated by their peers at work, according to a PayChex report.

However, to get what you want in the workplace, women must take charge. KPMG recommended the following four steps to help female professionals feel more confident:

  1. Make a conscious effort to ask for what you want, and be clear in those wants
  2. Stay aware of the impression you make, and be strong in that impression
  3. Speak up and defend your position
  4. Take risks--no risks means no rewards

"It starts with confidence," Laura Hay, global head of insurance at KPMG, said in the report. "Success in business correlates as much with confidence as it does with competence. And acting with confidence breeds confidence. The only true failure is quitting."

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • 48% of female employees said risk-taking helped boost their confidence at work. -- KPMG, 2019
  • 41% of women said they are scared of taking risks at work, however, because of a lack of initial confidence. -- KPMG, 2019

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Image: iStockphoto/gorodenkoff