• Nancy Mendelson

Why Women Should Take More Risks in the Workplace

Updated: Oct 13

Many of the topics I unpack have bubbled up during conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues, like this week’s column about risks, and who takes more of them…men or women.

why women should take more risks
when do we lose our fearless nature?

During a recent conversation I was having with a former colleague-turned-dear-friend, she couldn’t wait to tell me about a conference she attended, at which the CEO of the company sponsoring the event announced that they would be launching a new line of business, compatible with her role at the organization where she works. During the coffee break he sought her out and suggested they get together so he could essentially pick her brain and test the waters to see if there was a there, there, in terms of her potentially becoming a client.


Shortly thereafter the woman who was heading up the new division approached my friend to see if they could set up an appointment. “What’s your plan for this new enterprise?” my friend asked. A fair question. “Well, we really don’t have one yet,” was the response. Honest and yet a bit disturbing, given the public announcement the CEO had made the day before.

As an aside, she knew I had my brain picked by this guy years earlier when he was starting his now successful business and even wrote what turned out to be one of my more popular columns, Why You Shouldn’t Let People “Pick Your Brain.”

“Why is it that men can put themselves out there and take these kinds of risks? Why can’t we do that?” she exclaimed! An interesting topic for discussion to be sure.


In an article for Science Daily Dr Thekla Morgenroth, post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, said: "When people imagine a risk-taker, they might picture someone risking their fortune at a high-stakes poker game, an ambitious CEO, or someone crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope––but chances are that the person they picture will be a man. In other words, in our culture, risk is strongly associated with masculinity––and our research shows that this also biases how scientists measure risk."


From the same article, Prof Michelle Ryan noted: "Understanding the nature of gender differences in risk taking is particularly important as the assumption that women are risk averse is often used to justify ongoing gender inequality––such as the gender pay gap and women's under-representation in politics and leadership."

“Past research has shown women are penalized at work for their ambition, for behaving assertively, or even for asking for higher pay, all because these attributes and activities are perceived as masculine,“ asserts writer Kim Elesser in her Forbes piece titled Women Aren’t Risk-Averse, They Just Face Consequences When They Take Risks.

Case in point, a few years back, due to time sensitivity and the benefits of first mover advantage, I took a risk at work––which by the way did pay off for the company—but before it did, I was told I was a “loose cannon” and that my decision would cost the company millions. It cost the company a grand total of $1,000…a miniscule price to pay for the significant amount of positive publicity and good will it generated. But I digress…


Getting back to the CEO who made the announcement based on an idea and without a plan…I have no doubt he will be successful, because he usually is. He’s a no risk, no reward kinda guy.


But in answer to my friend’s question “why can’t we do that?” WE CAN! As women, we just do it differently. And viva la difference!!!