Women & Risk: Changing the Narrative

“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve risk.” Dalai Lama

We’re grateful to our esteemed panelists Michele Wucker and Alison Bettonville for sharing their insights and strategies to strengthen your knowledge and mindset to better navigate opportunities and decisions that involve a little or high degree of risk. (And special appreciation to Rachel Simmons who fell ill and couldn’t join us. Some of her insights and strategies are shared during the program by Nancy and Barbara and in the recap below.)

The recap includes some key takeaways, and we encourage you to listen to the full recording where our panelists and hosts offer their professional insights on strategies for making decisions, and taking and managing risks.

Key Program Take-Aways 

Research shows that there is no empirical evidence that women are risk-averse and take fewer risks than men. Risks are relative and vary by gender and other marginalized communities. Women are also more socialized to not take risks – to be polite, humble, and compliant. It is important for women to better understand their perceptions of risk, and the risks worth taking, and to avoid buying into this narrative and developing limiting beliefs.  

Focus on your behavior/relationship with risk. 

  • Change your approach from identifying risks to being aware of your response to risk.
  • Create an effective environment to navigate the risk (your environment, habits, self-awareness)
  • Be aware of the perspectives, biases, and risk appetitive of others involved in a decision.  
  • Developing a decision-making architecture will help you make a risk-informed decision. 

Risk is everywhere and can’t be eliminated but needs to be managed. Put the issue/decision in context – What is the probability of a good or bad outcome? Be sure to assess the positives and fully evaluate taking a potential risk.  Do this by asking yourself: 

  • How will I feel if I do take this risk what is the downside if it doesn’t work out? Will I regret it? 
  • What is the biggest risk you have ever taken? What was the outcome? Was it worth it? What did you learn? 
  • This decision is riskier than what? 

The key to success in risk-taking is to manage your mindset. Rachel Simmons offers the following strategies: 

  • Embrace a positive stress mindset. Know that discomfort is normal and can be fuel to help you take action.   
  • This is not a solo journey. Build alliances and buy-in from others and identify people in your personal or professional network for support, advocacy, and a different perspective.  
  • Determine the importance and magnitude of the risk and whether it is “worth taking. Is it aligned with your values and purpose?  
  • Taking risks is not about a moment. It is a process and a series of decisions and risks that allow you to build your muscle over time. And the next risk becomes an easier one to take and decision to make!  

Additional Resources

A Risk Assessment Tool: Assess your risk type: www.psy-key.com. Use the access code: GrayRhino 


Rachel’s recommendations: 

Michele Wucker (author) 


About Our Panel

Michele Wucker

Michele is a Global Strategist and Advisor, Author, and Speaker. Michele coined the term “gray rhino” as a call to take a fresh look at how we respond to obvious, probable, impactful risks. She founded the Chicago-based advisory firm Gray Rhino & Company and is a former media and think tank executive. Her four books include the influential global bestseller THE GRAY RHINO: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore and the recently released sequel, YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World.

Gray Rhino & Company is an innovative global strategic advisory firm that applies behavioral insights and real-time global analysis to improving governance, decisions, and responses involving key operational and strategic risks. Through multi-media tools and in-person engagement, she helps business and policy leaders and their teams to better recognize and act on the obvious, impactful yet all-too-often neglected “gray rhino” risks that lend competitive advantage to those who respond wisely. Michele is a sought-after global risk expert, specialized in the global economy, public policy, and business trends. She draws on a background in behavioral economics and financial analysis. 

To learn more: 



Find Michele on Twitter @wucker.


Alison Bettonville, CFA®

Alison is a Principal of CAP STRAT and manages the firm’s Institutional Advisory Business and is a member of the firm’s Investment Committee, and hosts a videocast: Sophisticated Fiduciary. Alison works with corporate and non-profit clients advising them on their retirement plans, endowments, and reserve accounts. Alison partners with clients on investment menu design, investment manager selection, fiduciary governance, provider service, and fee evaluations, plan design best practices, and pension plan issues such as de-risking strategies and plan terminations.  

Alison graduated with honors from Marquette University and holds a B.S. in Business Administration, majoring in Finance, Economics, and International Business with a minor in Spanish for the Professions. She was also admitted into Marquette’s Applied Investment Management Program, working with peers to manage a sleeve of the University Endowment. Alison is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a member of the Illinois CFA Institute. 

To learn more: 



Rachel Simmons(absent due to illness)

Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers: Odd Girl Out, The Curse of the Good Girl, and Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives.

A master facilitator and executive coach, she works for the world’s most innovative companies to design and deliver programs for women’s leadership development and gender equity. She is renowned for translating social science research into accessible strategies with authenticity and humor while creating a safe space to explore uncomfortable topics.

Rachel serves on the faculty of the Google School for Leaders and is an associate with the firm Cultivating Leadership. After co-founding the national nonprofit Girls Leadership, she led the Phoebe Lewis Leadership Program at Smith College. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and Harvard Business Review, among many other publications.

An ABC News Contributor for Good Morning America, Rachel is a recognized thought leader in the national media. She is a proud gay parent and lives in Western Massachusetts with her daughter and two rescue dogs.

To learn more: 



Finally, be sure to check and register for the next Women’s Forum events.

Please let us know if you would like to have a conversation with us. Email the CAP STRAT Women’s Forum with any questions at womensforum@capstratig.com! Or call us at 630.320.5100.

Barbara Best

Barbara Best, AIF® is a Founder and Principal of CAP STRAT, and Founder of the CAP STRAT Women's Forum


Nancy is a Principal and founding partner of CAP STRAT, and Founder of the CAP STRAT Women's Forum

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