It’s scary. 

Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks. Especially when it can backfire and cause you your paycheck.  

Even the most confident women have a flinch point when it comes to risk. She often knows her limits and capabilities so well that she is completely content to keep producing high quality without the risk of well…risk. Taking a risk at work for a women means putting it out there and being subjected to criticism. Ironically, studies found that women’s stress level actually goes down when she takes a risk, as opposed to a man. In fact, Nichole R. Lighthall found that gender differences are amplified even further under stress. Male risk-taking tends to increase under stress, while female risk taking tends to decrease under stress. One reason is there are gender differences in brain activity involved in computing risk and preparing for action. 

Sometimes risk taking can be learning and not necessarily doing anything.  Calculated risks at work tend to have success.  What women want to avoid is overthinking. For example, I met with a client last week and she was clearly ready to quit her job search and start her own private marketing consulting business. When probed, she stated she was ‘thinking about it’. After exploring the business plan, it was clear that she had thought about it and it was a good option.  

Thinking wasn’t the issue. Overthinking and hesitation is what stopped her, like most women.  

I’d be remiss in this article if I didn’t bring up fear of failure as it relates to being risk adverse. We tell ourselves as women that it’s the safe way to play it if we just get along and enjoy what we have in our lives.  Fear of failure drives the decision as opposed to facts. Fear is a feeling. Not a fact. Feelings aren’t facts and women often have a very hard time separating what they feel from what IS.  It’s a crying shame when we let our thoughts prevent us from taking healthy professional risks at work. The worst part is a good company misses out on our ideas when we stay silent. 

Here’s where our lack of taking risks have brought us today, in 2017.  

According to a study by LeanIn.Org: The disparity begins at entry level, where men are 30% more likely than women to be promoted to management roles .For every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted. Only 40% of women are interested in becoming top executives, compared to 56% of men. 

When we don’t ask and step up and embrace the risk, we all lose out.Think of the wonderful opportunities, companies and people that you won’t encounter if you shrink back?   

I’d like to leave you with some positive quotes that may reframe your thoughts around risk: 

“Opportunity does knock just once. It’s a revolving door.”   - Eve Wright, Author 

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller 

“Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” — Jimmy Carter 

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” — Miles Davis