The Biggest Risk for Women Is Not Taking Risks — Here’s Why We Need to Take Chances

Think about the last time you took a risk and regretted it.  Can’t think of one? That’s because taking risks feels good, improves self- confidence ⏤ and as it turns out, isn’t all that risky after all.

Still scared? Do it anyway.

Because when you avoid risk to save your emotions, you put your career (and your financial future) in even more jeopardy than risk taking.

According to a recent CNNMoney report, only 24 of the 500 companies have women CEOs, and women hold less than 15% of key leadership positions. You can’t expect to see the numbers of women in leadership positions increase unless you and I keep our eyes on the prize and take the leap. So, as a businesswoman, if you want to be equal — and if you want power — you need to start taking more risks, because every time you shy away from taking a risk, you’re missing out on the countless opportunities.

So, how do women business leaders gain the confidence to take more chances?

The simple answer is: by taking more risks. Ask any successful businesswomen, how she feels about risk, and chances are she will tell you that she takes them every day.

Achieving success today requires the kind of action-first, fake-it-’til-you-make-it ethos, and we get it – this formula is not typically a female one. But, what if you had the confidence and fearlessness to take a chance, even if you knew you may fail fabulously? What if instead of agonizing over which step to take, you took more risks?

As Melissa Woo, CIO and vice provost for information services at the University of Oregon notes, in a recent article on

To be truly disruptive, you need to purposely shake your personal status quo. Women in particular need to find the confidence to take risks.

Whether you are asking for a raise, quitting your job, raising a funding round —  take the risk and do it. Yes, sometimes you will fail — and that’s ok — because data shows that when you win, you win big.

The moral of the story is that as a woman, you should take risks for one simple reason: you can’t afford not to.  We can’t get anything unless we ask for it and take action, and if you want to create an opportunity for yourself, you have to take chances.

The moral of the story is that as a woman,

you should take risks for one simple reason:

you can’t afford not to. 

So, how can you gain the confidence necessary to take risks and chance to fail?

Sallie Krawcheck is CEO, and Co-Founder of Ellevest, an innovative digital investing and planning platform for women – and one of the most successful and influential executives in financial services. She has built her career and reputation on thoughtful risk-taking.

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Here she shares an approach that will help you to take chances while mitigating risk — keeping you on the track to growth and continued opportunity.


The Biggest Risk for Women Is Not Taking Risks — Here’s Why We Need to Take Chances

Sit down with someone you trust and practice doing whatever it is. So, if you’re thinking about starting a company, practice what it would be like being an entrepreneur. If you’re asking for a raise, practice the meeting with a friend or a mentor.


As you’re thinking through a risk, ask for feedback. This is most important for us as women are because as the statistics show men get more feedback at work than men. So, it’s important that you ask for feedback on everything,  from a presentation to how you approach a meeting.


Through the course of your career, create a board of advisors or “sponsors”. Your board of advisors can be anyone from someone you work with, to a friend, or an old professor— this board of advisors will be your sounding board as you grow in your career.


Networking has been called the #1 determinant of success or failure.  So, regardless of where you are in your career, networking is important. Networking can mitigate all kinds of risks because someone in your network can tell you about your competitors, about that new job— and on and one.

So, as you’re taking risks,  keep these four things in mind — practice, ask for feedback, have a board of directors, and network — and you will mitigate your risk and keep you on the track to growth and continued opportunity.

Now that you know about the gender risk gap, want to know the gender gap that involves our risk-averse attitude, but can end up cost us women even more, over the course of our careers: It’s the gender investing gap. According to Krawcheck, women do not invest to the same extent that men do: a lower percent of us have started saving for retirement than men, we have saved less for retirement, and we park 68% of our money in cash.

How does it affect you?

“Starting with the pay gap, the numbers look like this: Assume you’re making a salary of $85,000 a year, and you have 40 years left to work ahead of you. Get the raise to the guy’s level, and you’ll earn an additional $1 million.”  But, wait. “What if you take 20% of your (pre-raise) salary and invest it in a diversified investment portfolio — one made up of stocks and bonds — rather than leaving that money in cash? Over the next 40 years, we estimate you’ll earn an additional $500,000 to $2.1 million, depending on market performance.” (Source: Ellevest)

This is by no means meant to suggest that the stock market only goes up. Hardly,” says Krawcheck.  “And, believe me, I have the scars from the market downturn of 2007 / 2008 to prove it. But historically — counting up years, down years, and bumps along the way — the stock market has returned 9.5% on average annually since 1928. This is quite a bit more than keeping the money in the bank these days, where it can earn close to 0%.”

So what should you as a woman do?

Well, the answer, of course, is that you should ask for the raise at work — and you should invest that raise. 

Your skills and experience will get you the raise, the promotion, or whatever it is your asking for. Onwards!

Get your free financial plan.

Sallie Krawcheck is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, an innovative digital investing and planning platform for women. She is also the Chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional women’s network.

Disclosures: We’re excited to be partnering with Ellevest to start this conversation about women and money. We may receive compensation if you become an Ellevest client.