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Women in risk leadership: An interview with MD Katja Rieger



Today is International Women's Day, and in light of the recently announced Women in Risk initiative by the RiskMinds Series,  we had the opportunity to speak with Katja Rieger, Managing Direct at Ripple Effect and a respected thought leader within the Risk community. Katja will be participating at RiskMinds Insurance in Amsterdam next week.


 "Fortunately, I know more and more very competent women becoming CROs, which helps. But it’s just a start."

Katja Rieger, Managing Director at Ripple Effect

 Why do we see such few women in Risk leadership? 

I can only speculate, and some of the reasons are the same as for other leadership roles: lack of sponsorship, bias in hiring or promoting etc. And one reason is certainly, that there have not been that many senior role models. We know by now, that as many women finish their studies with the required qualifications. And I am certain, that at entry level, there is gender parity. Fortunately, I know more and more very competent women becoming CROs, which helps. But it’s just a start.


What needs to be done to see a more inclusive and diverse community of Risk leaders? 

Combatting bias is certainly one thing, that should be done. There is still a lot of this unconscious attitude, that women are not as good in science as men. And very often risk management job descriptions heavily favour the technical, mathematical and modelling skills. Of course this bias has been proven wrong, but if we don't tackle it, women may still face challenges in getting accepted for the technical positions.


Can women bring a difference to risk culture? 

I don't think we should generalise that women have more emotional intelligence. But I can absolutely say, that emotional intelligence in leaders is a prerequisite for a strong risk culture. If you can read between the lines, you can spot when people don't buy in to the values. Emotional Intelligence can help as well in spotting the potential for fraud or other challenges to a sound risk culture.


What are the important traits for a future leader (past vs present) and why are more women likely to experience exit or a slowdown than men in their career?

The most important leadership traits are people skills. The higher you rise, the less you need to be the technical expert. The ability to empathise, to communicate well, to develop your people and to energise them to do the right thing are all skills, that we need. Both men and women have those skills, but in the past other skills may have brought more chance for promotion, e.g. winning (as in I win/you loose), negotiating versus collaborating, controlling versus coaching. Fortunately this kind of leadership style is waning, which may mean, that in future more of the right men and women will have those leadership positions.



What is emotional leadership? Can emotional leadership give an advantage to women managing risks?

We are all emotional, men and women, artist or mathematician. Even the most technically minded actuary will be prone to heuristic and bias, because this is simply how we are wired as humans. The challenge is, that very often we are not aware, that we are not as rational as we think. And with that lack of awareness we become victims of our own biases. So my credo is, that we need to connect with our emotions to become better leaders, but never let ourselves be high-jacked by them.



Learn more about Katja and RiskMinds Insurance here.

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