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Women must take risks to get ahead: KPMG

Women’s reluctance to take big risks is holding them back in their careers, according to a new study by KPMG, the professional services company. Nearly 70% of women are open to taking small risks, but only 43% are open to bigger risks to further their careers, the study found.

On Yahoo Finance’s On The Move, KPMG’s chief diversity officer Michele Meyer-Shipp says women need to get more comfortable putting themselves out there.

“We actually have to teach women that not only do you work hard but you have to lean into taking risks, asking for what you want, and owning your career. Because without that, it just doesn’t happen on its own,” said Meyer-Shipp.

Women’s risk-taking declines with experience

The KMPG study which is based on a survey of over 2,000 college educated professional women aged 18-64 currently working full-time in white-collar jobs, found that women become less inclined to take risks as they gain more experience in their careers: 45% of respondents with fewer than five years of experience are open to taking bigger risks, but only 37% with more than 15 years of experience were open to it.

“We have to force ourselves to be intentional about leaning in, we have to constantly push ourselves to ask questions, ask for that stretch assignment, ask for that promotion, ask for that salary increase. It’s about owning it,” said Meyer-Shipp.

According to the study, women are aware of the benefits of risk-taking: 40% said that their number one motivation is making more money. However, leaders have a role to play in helping women advance.

“I talk to leaders about this all the time. Don’t assume that because someone’s sitting there working hard, and not speaking up for themselves that they don’t want it. We have to give them permission to engage,” said Meyer-Shipp. “I’m telling leaders you have to remember to create an environment where it’s OK for the folks coming up to know that they can speak, to know that their voice can be heard, and to know that they can bring new ideas to the table.”

Meyer-Shipp spoke about the relationship that she had with her parents growing up as an example of how parents can help their daughters become successful in their careers.

“I actually think of coming up as a woman of color. I heard all types of things and saw all kinds of images in the world and it was my parents telling me you can be anything you want to be. Go get it. There are no restrictions. It was that message sitting at the back of my head that had me pushing all the way along even when I thought maybe everything else was stacked up against me. So that messaging and that support and that encouragement I think will go a really long way,” she said.

According to KPMG, women of color are more open to taking bigger risks than white women – 57% vs. 38%.

“I really do think it is because as women of color, especially in the white-collar professional workplace, we have been uncomfortable from day 1. You know stepping into spaces where you’re the only one,” she said. “So you actually kind of get into the habit early on in your career of navigating in spaces where I have to figure out how this works. And if I don’t lean in, I’m going to be pushed out.”


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