To mark International Women’s Day, we asked three risk managers to share their experiences and thoughts on whether seeking gender balance and diversity is important for the risk management industry
Suchitra Narayanan, group head of risk and insurance, AirAsia
“I believe women make great risk managers as they are able to focus on the bigger picture whilst not losing sight of the attention to detail required. The balance of the two qualities is fundamental to the success of a risk manager, and women have the innate ability to be able to do this successfully. I think that women are also equipped with a natural affinity to continually improve themselves, and in the dynamic world of risk management, this is a real asset.
“Much has been written and documented about gender inequality and disparity in senior roles across all industries and sectors. I am very fortunate to work at an organisation where women fill many senior positions across the Group and as a woman, this is certainly inspiring. Women need other women to look up to, in order to be empowered and to know that gender shouldn’t be a barrier to success.
“Early on in my career, I did feel that as a woman, I had a glass ceiling and this may have made me somewhat reticent. However, I have met and been motivated by so many successful women and this has had an influence on me, to continually push myself to greater heights. At AirAsia, there is a campaign entitled ‘ Girls can do anything’, which supports women through their careers, and it is indeed encouraging to see organisations recognising the need to provide women with the opportunities to rise to the top.”
Kimberley Pelly, risk and compliance adviser, Queensland Airports
“Women bring a unique perspective to risk management. We are very good at drilling down to get to the root cause of the risk – just ask our partners. We also tend to be more comfortable to ask the ‘silly question’ and push until we get an answer that we are comfortable with, allowing for better risk identification.
Personally, I am not as interested in being the leader of the pack, but more the voice of conscience. The detail is important to me and I will research an issue to the nth degree in order to understand the risk and provide input into an efficient and effective solution. But you do need broad shoulders (or shoulder pads!)
I find that I am more willing to ask for help than some of my male peers over the years. In my first risk role, I was allocated risk management as they needed someone outcome focussed to just get in and get it done. It was a quick learning curve and I was very lucky to have an industry based risk group to seek assistance. I was that annoying person who asked a new question every week.
This group was paramount to my success as I could learn from those who had tried and failed and tried again. Together, we succeeded. My risk peers provided me with the confidence to implement risk management, business continuity and crisis management into an organisation that had not previously delved into this area of management.
My enthusiasm provided me with the opportunity and confidence to take on the role of President of that same industry risk group, giving me the ability to impart knowledge to others starting along the same route. In my current role, I have been provided the opportunity to take risk management beyond ‘best practice’. I believe my enthusiasm for risk management and my ability to make risk management, can I say – fun, has enabled this to be a success and now I have managers at all levels looking at risk from a holistic perspective, rather than an operational or silo’d one.
Susie Jones, Head of Cyber Security Business Services, Information Security Office, Australia Post
“I think with any aspect of diversity, welcoming more women into risk management will help us to broaden the scope of our collective ideas and increase the reach of our networks and influence across our respective businesses. Research shows that diverse teams achieve more valuable outcomes, so this feels like a no-brainer.
“This shouldn’t be limited to operational risk roles either, women in leadership are essential to encouraging diversity in ideas and more balanced approaches to risk decisions. For myself personally, the risk conferences I have attended that have diverse speakers from varied backgrounds and representing different genders and cultures have always provided more thought-provoking content, and the most successful teams I have worked in have been basically 50/50 men and women.
“When I’ve worked in teams where the gender split has been dramatically skewed either way, there have been clear instances of blind-spots in our collective thinking that resulted in sub-optimal outcomes for the business.”