Today marks International Women’s Day so StrategicRISK asked female risk managers for their thoughts on how they would like to see the risk management profession embrace gender diversity

On International Women’s Day, leading risk managers have called on companies to do more to improve gender diversity in senior risk positions.

Zalina Jaflus, chief operating officer at Sterling Risk Solutions in Malaysia, believes more women should be given the opportunity to take on senior risk management roles. “The improvement I would love to see is for women to be given the equal opportunity to be in the senior and top management position which they are so often deprived,” she adds.

Jaflus believes diversity can improve risk-based decision making and give businesses a competitive advantage: “More women should hold chief risk officer positions because of the benefits of gender diversity in senior and board positions.”

Jaflus believes gender diversity “enriches problem-solving ability” in a competitive and challenging market.

Jaflus says gender diversity can enhance decision-making processes and lead to more effective risk management: “To me, gender diversity brings a host of benefits in providing a better workplace across all industries, and not just in the risk profession. However, the benefits of gender diversity can be more apparent in the risk profession, as women can bring their own perspective in the risk assessment process and in managing overall risks.” 

A wide range of studies, including McKinsey & Company’s ‘Women Matter’ report, show companies with equal representation and women in senior management positions have the best operating, financial, and share price performance.

A 2017 study from research and advisory firm Gartner revealed diverse risk and security teams make better decisions due to broader thinking, and a wider set of problem-solving resources. Despite this, Gartner’s survey of 364 risk and security executives revealed males outnumbered females 2.8 to one.

Deborah D’Souza, manager for group insurance at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, says there is “evidence to show that better outcomes are achieved with greater diversity (gender/cultural) across all levels of management”.

D’Souza believes there is “still more to be done to achieve greater diversity and equal representation across the broader business community, including the risk profession”. She says targets for equal representation on leadership teams are “still necessary”.

Initiatives such as flexible working arrangements for working mothers have improved career opportunities for women, and this “needs to continue to be supported” across all sectors, D’Souza says.

Irene Lye, head of enterprise risk management at Singapore-based urban development company Ascendas-Singbridge, believes fundamental changes are needed across society and the corporate world, rather than just the risk sector.

Lye says: “While gender diversity has been improving in recent years, the efforts and momentum must continue; governments and corporations need to work together to break down barriers that prevent women from contributing fully to the economy and rising to leadership positions.”

Lye believes governments can help to reinforce gender equality through education, and “change mindsets which discredit gender stereotypes”.

Lye agrees with D’Souza that flexible working arrangements and similar strategies will broaden gender diversity and open up career paths for more women. She adds: “Corporations could consider allowing women to work flexi-hours, adopt new models of value contribution that value entrepreneurship and independent work.”

Meanwhile, Francesca Dickson, group risk manager at Australia-based electronic payments company Bpay, says companies need to take a “whole business approach” to gender diversity. This, she says, will improve gender-imbalance across the board. “This must be endorsed, and seen to be endorsed, from the very top,” she adds.

“I believe we need to monitor gender diversity in the risk profession for any issues that are specific to our industry,” Dickson adds.