The Confidence Gap: Are Women Losing Out Because of the Fear of Taking Risks?

The Confidence Gap: Are Women Losing Out Because of the Fear of Taking Risks? September 2, 2020

Guest blog by Laura S. Scott, PCC, CPC, ELI-MP, CPDFA

According to a KPMG report, “less than half (43%) of women said they feel comfortable taking risks.” The biggest reason women don’t take risks is a lack of confidence. However, 45% of these same women polled believed “risk-taking helped them gain a whole new set of skills and 33% said it helped them build more respect among their colleagues.”

As a serial entrepreneur, I believe my ability to take confident and calculated risks is vital to my career and financial success, so I was surprised and dismayed by these stats. So, what can women do to exercise their courage muscles and embrace the risks that allow them to achieve, lead, and succeed?

Less than half (43%) of women said they feel comfortable taking risks.”

KPMG recommended the following four steps to help female professionals feel more confident:

  1. Make a conscious effort to ask for what you want and be clear in those wants. When our Key Women’s Leadership Forum (KWLF) members ask for feedback or advice, we start by asking them clarifying questions first. It’s important to be specific about what you want, or want to see, before you can confidently move forward. Voice your concerns. “I am concerned we are making this decision based on 1st quarter data when our early 2nd quarter numbers are trending lower. I think we should wait for the 2nd quarter reports to see if this is a trend or an aberration.”
  2. Stay aware of the impression you make and be strong in that impression. Self-awareness is the critical first step in confidence.Seek feedback about how you are perceived and play to your strengths while being mindful of your weaknesses in terms of your leadership presence. Be aware that subtle things like posture and hand movements or other nervous tics can undermine your otherwise confident communications.
  3. Speak up and defend your position. Don’t dominate the conversation, instead look for ways to add value to the discussion by offering a new perspective. “I agree with John that we can cut costs in the supply chain and I also believe we can increase revenue in our leasing department by upgrading our product line there.” Think “and,” not “but” and communicate the WHY behind your thinking. 
  4. Take risks—no risks mean no rewards. Executive leaders are ones we count on to shoulder the risk and make the tough calls. In our Forums, the risk is often weighed against personal and organizational values. It’s easier to take a risk if the decision supports key values. That’s called leadership courage.

Read more about the KPMG report at

Read more about how the confidence gap hurts women in the workplace by clicking here.

Laura S. Scott is a senior consultant, coach, and facilitator with Key Associates and president of 180 Coaching.