A survey of 2,000 professional women found many don't do what it takes to get ahead at work, and it gets worse over time

woman work thinking listening

  • Women tend to
    become more risk-averse as they progress in their careers,
    according to a new KPMG report.
  • That’s possibly because senior women have more to lose,
    personally and professionally.
  • But taking (some) risks, like clearly articulating that
    you want a raise or a promotion, can benefit your

new report
on women and leadership by financial-services
company KPMG presents a somewhat counterintuitive finding: As women
advance in their careers, they become less inclined to take
professional risks.

KPMG surveyed a total of 2,012 professional, college-educated
women in the U.S. Results showed that 45% of women with fewer than
five years of experience said they were open to taking big risks to
further their career, compared to 37% of women with at least 15
years of experience. Big risks refer to moves like moving to a new
city for a job or changing careers entirely.

That’s not because women aren’t confident, the report says.
Instead, according to Michele Meyer-Shipp, chief diversity officer
at KPMG, it’s likely because senior women have more to lose. Many
senior women have families to take care of; they may be planning
for retirement; and they may have established themselves at a
particular organization.

When women do take risks, according to the report, it’s
typically with the goal of earning more, as opposed to getting a
title bump. What’s more, women are significantly more likely to
take risks to benefit their team or their organization than to
benefit themselves. The report found that 69% of women were willing
to ask to get involved in a project, compared to 43% who were
willing to tout their accomplishments.

Another important finding from the report: Women of color were
most likely to take risks in their career. As many as 57% said they
were open to taking big risks to further their careers, compared to
38% of white women. As Meyer-Shipp
told Inc.’s Michelle Cheng
, “Women of color are a little more
comfortable getting uncomfortable because that’s how we have to
navigate every single day of our lives.”

Read more:
Why black women are more ambitious than white women — but have a
harder time getting ahead

It’s important to clearly articulate your career ambitions

KPMG didn’t include men in this particular survey, but other
sources provide some evidence that women may be more risk-averse in
their careers.

For example, a survey on career regrets by Zety, cited

in Forbes
, found that women are more likely than men to regret
not speaking up about a problem at work and not negotiating a
higher starting salary. Another study, cited in the
Harvard Business Review
, found that women are less inclined
than men are to apply for a job when they don’t meet 100% of the
qualifications, largely because they want to avoid wasting

That said, Doug Sundheim, the author of “Taking
Smart Risks
,” pointed out in a Harvard
Business Review
article that “risk-taking” is typically defined
rather narrowly. He writes: “The majority of studies that point to
men having a greater inclination for risk-taking define risk in
physical and financial terms. They don’t point to risks like
standing up for what’s right in the face of opposition, or taking
the ethical path when there’s pressure to stray — important
risks that I’ve found women are particularly strong at

Read more:
There are 114% more women entrepreneurs than there were 20 years
ago, but the reason why is troubling

To be sure, some caution around professional risk-taking can be
advisable. Meyer-Shipp said it depends on where you are in your
life and career. Yet Meyer-Shipp also emphasized the importance of
articulating what you want, like a raise or a promotion, as opposed
to thinking it will just land in your lap if you work hard enough.
“The bottom line is we have to ask,” Meyer-Shipp said.

Indeed, the report found that women are more likely to attribute
their career success to working hard (73%) than to being a
risk-taker (8%).

The survey findings hit home for Meyer-Shipp, who took a
meaningful risk about eight years ago, when she transitioned from
employment law to leading the diversity function at a major
organization. When she was approached about the opportunity,
Meyer-Shipp remembered thinking, “Me? Really? I’m just a lawyer.
Can I really do this?”

In Meyer-Shipp’s case, an unidentified sponsor had recommended
her for the position. As one of Meyer-Shipp’s mentors told her,
“Someone clearly sees something in you that you don’t even know
you’ve got. Go for it.”

Read More:
What young women think it takes to get ahead at work isn’t actually
what moves the needle

Meyer-Shipp said the KPMG report may comfort women who realize
they’re not alone in their trepidation around risk-taking — but
that’s not enough. The findings emphasize that “we have to be
proactive in advocating for ourselves and our career,” she

As for organizations, Meyer-Shipp said it’s also on them to
support women as they navigate their career. They need to “make
sure we are letting women and all professionals know we want to
hear their voices.”

young women think it takes to get ahead at work isn’t actually what
moves the needle

Join the conversation about this story »

Barbara Corcoran on Donald Trump: ‘He is the best salesman I’ve
ever met in my life’

Source: FS – All – Economy – News
A survey of 2,000 professional women found many don't do what it takes to get ahead at work, and it gets worse over time