BY Liz Booth
Female risk managers across the world are marking International Women’s Day 2017 today.
The UK’s Institute of Risk Management (IRM), which includes a chapter in Kenya as well as in South Africa, has also highlighted the role of women in risk.
The institute said: “While it may not be easy to predict what tomorrow’s business will require from its leadership, there is a growing body of evidence that women are no longer trying to fit into the culture of the organisations they work for but are creating that culture. This is also the trend for women working in risk management.
“Anecdotally, there appear to be a lot more women working in operational risk, which requires a more qualitative skillset than, say, credit risk which is heavily quants biased. While some may say that technical skills can be learnt, we want to understand what the drivers are of women working in risk; how they function and whether emotional intelligence is a factor that may positively influence how risk is managed.”
Dorothy Maseke, GradIRM, group risk and compliance manager at ICEA LIONGROUP and chair of the IRM’s Kenya group, gave her perspective: “In the past couple of years, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on empowering the girl child in Kenya. As such, there has been a lot of progress.
“A lot of c-level positions, including senior risk positions, are filled by women. Since risk management within the east Africa region is a relatively new field, the gender debate specifically for the risk manager is no longer quite a subject. A number of risk professionals are women and this cuts across many sectors within this region.”
She added: “Women are naturally caregivers, nurturers and trainers. They find it easy to bring forth new things (almost synonymous to bringing forth children and seeing them grow). Through this process, they educate these young ones as they learn great life lessons like patience, perseverance and multi-tasking.
“Being a woman, and a mother of young children, has actually helped me through my journey as a risk professional. I am able to work towards providing solutions, plan strategically, birthing new things and ideas, with an energy that seems to never end.”
Strengths that women have include strong communication skills, attention to detail, high emotional intelligence (ability to read facial expressions, moods) as well as trusting their guts (strong intuition), which helps us when at a crossroads, according to Ms Maseke.
“We are able to make decisions without all the facts at times, by simply trusting our very strong gut feeling. These unique qualities make women a ‘safe pair of hands’,” she said.
In terms of advice, she said do not be afraid to stand out and take risks. Do not be afraid to take the lead – to help drive strategic directions.
“As risk management develops as a discipline, there will be less focus solely on financial risk and more on understanding behaviour and decision making – risk will play more of a strategic role at board level, [and] there is a need for qualified staff with a mixture of soft skills and technical knowledge,” she concluded.