What can we do to address gender equality in risk management? Maybe it’s a shift into a different approach that will enable more female leaders and improve the service, irrespective of gender, argues risk practitioner, Patrick Aubrey.

My mentors in risk were all men. The brand of risk I was taught was about analytics, was results orientated and required an aggressive stance to force it into process and to be bold about the need to formalise risk management into delivery.

Today, the constitution of my team is a 50:50 balance of men and women and I am of the belief that women will be the dominant gender for the industry moving forward, thereby having a very positive impact on the profession.

I am not in advocacy for positive action/discrimination, but this is an admission from today’s leaders that we are about to reach a point where tomorrows leaders need to be a balance of both genders. There will be a tipping point where women will embrace leadership positions, and this will be the catalyst for an increased gender climate in the industry. 

I believe that we, as an industry, have overly relied upon scientific methods to create risk management fundamentals and have not leaned into the more philosophical approach to risk management. We will reap the rewards if we are prepared to embrace the execution of doing the basics differently, and the bigger picture of gender equality will naturally take care of itself when it counts the most.

We can create an equal opportunity future, but this future will be rooted with an increased emphasis on the skills that women often naturally have. These are sometimes referred to as soft skills but I believe that they should be referred to as human skills. These are skills we all need to embrace, regardless of gender.

As the environment and culture grows around us, the more traditional ‘masculine’ or hard skills will become less dominant and the service we provide will improve for our clients. The next evolution of risk management will be a shift to new approaches and technology in parallel with a culture change, which will see a societal movement towards a more collaborative approach to risk.

If I was asked what the skills required to be an exceptional manager were (irrespective of profession); I would answer that they are strong communication, a collaborative approach with the client, a reasoned decision-making process and an intuition for exploration. This list is great skills for any leader, so why should risk consider itself to be a follower in the gender equality challenge, when we can easily be the trend-setter?

We need reasoned thinkers, people who understand the big picture and excel with the softer skills and I believe we are missing a trick as an industry by not ensuring we have the best candidates for risk leadership roles, irrespective of gender.

Current leaders will need to find, shape and define the motivation for the next generation and support their development. We will be the ones to create the world in which new leaders will emerge and have the capability to develop the new norm. This will not contradict the efforts of today, but it will lay the foundations for the new risk world order. We as leaders need to:

  • Identify future leaders of both genders
  • Create a safe environment, where risk professionals can act on instinct and trust their motives rather than question them against the baseline we have set
  • Remain flexible to different approaches; some may want to adapt what is the norm, others may want to break the mould
  • And in the case of our female team members, understand the being a pioneer in any industry will be incredibly daunting and look for exemplar role models to guide them

My advice to all those who are thinking about being a future leader is to remember that best practice risk management is about technique, role, passion and effort and, with a constantly shifting landscape, you should be flexible to how your career will play out.