Skip to main content

Women, Risks, and Opportunities

Women have demonstrated ample evidence of strong leadership. Furthermore, from positions of leadership, we have successfully taken and successfully managed risks time and again. As entrepreneurs, we save more and pay better as an asset class. However, there is still much to do to achieve gender parity.

Women in a meeting


Originally published in Latin Finance


I am looking at the list 50 Women of Impact in Latin America 2023, published by Bloomberg, which includes pioneering and prominent figures in business and corporate positions. While there are expected names, such as Samatha Ricciardi, CEO of Santander Asset Management, and Rossana Costa, president of Chile’s Central Bank, one detail particularly caught my attention.

Despite their undeniable successes and achievements in each of their areas (finance, industry, energy, technology, and software), almost none are household names beyond their scope. With brilliant careers, impeccable results, and solid leadership, this is most likely the first time many people have read their names.

In other words, in the corporate and financial world of Latin America and the Caribbean, and particularly in leadership positions, women are not only underrepresented but also not sufficiently visible. Research shows that closing gender gaps could boost some countries' GDP per capita by about 20%. Therefore, we must immediately leverage this untapped opportunity to build the female asset class.

In my immediate context, that of international financial institutions, the situation is heterogeneous, according to this Center for Global Development's study. Although the percentage of women in leadership positions has almost doubled in the last 20 years, none of these entities has achieved gender parity at the managerial level.

Most international financial institutions have policies, commitments, and even Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion teams, but significant imbalances of women among their administrative staff and leadership positions remain. Also, more men than women have been making the leap from professional ranks to managerial positions.

However, I am thrilled to see in my workplace, the IDB Group, a commitment to changing this trend; and female managers across the organization are role models for their technical excellence and leadership. In my area of work, risk management, studies show that women in corporate or entrepreneurial leadership positions are more prone than their male counterparts to take risks. Data demonstrates they do so more strategically and less recklessly.

In other words, women are good at taking risks and managing them effectively. Our recent study, "Women Rising," demonstrates that women are more prone to saving and have lower default rates than their male counterparts.

Let us look at it this way: Who wouldn’t want to invest in a low-risk opportunity with a guarantee of strong management and an opportunity to maximize one's investment? Regarding women, in my view, opportunity and risk are two sides of the same coin.

And at IDB Invest, we lead by example. We strive to invest in and support companies with women in leadership, and those that are working to build the female asset class. This focus supports more sustainable and successful companies that contribute to the progress of people, economies, and societies.

We are also part of WeFi, an alliance of 14 governments and six development banks to promote companies owned or led by women, with whom we launched WeCode in the Dominican Republic to guide financial intermediaries on investing in these companies.

Initiatives like these, coupled with the fact that the presence of women in leadership positions in companies in Latin America and the Caribbean has been growing slowly but steadily for 20 years and that more and more women actively seek to reach positions of power, make me somewhat optimistic.

The question is how we continue to move in that direction. Last year, the United Nations estimated that, at the current pace, it will take 300 years to achieve gender parity. Neither women nor humanity can wait that long.

In addition to the corporate initiatives and investments underway, there are some government mandates being implemented in that direction. For example, the European standard establishing that, by 2026, women should hold at least 40% of non-executive administrative positions in publicly traded companies and 30% of executive positions.

It is imperative that the corporate and financial ecosystem embrace the evidence and opportunity so plainly before us: women - as entrepreneurs and leaders - are a good risk.

This is the vision we are promoting from IDB Invest, where, by the way, we have gender parity within our risk management department.

It is also heartening to see that in other International Financial Institutions this value and expertise are embodied by women leading risk management, including Lakshmi Shyam-Sunder at the World Bank, Romy Bowers at the International Monetary Fund, Roberta Casali at the Asian Development Bank, and Samya Paiva at CAF, to name a few.

Given the different perspectives that men and women bring to this sector, parity in risk management and focus on the female asset class has become a priority in a world filled with risks and opportunities.

We must make women visible, bring them into risk management, finance their businesses, and accompany them to the top of corporations. The data and the opportunities are there. It is time to act.


Rachel Robboy

Rachel Robboy is an experienced international development banker with core expertise in financial and non-financial risk management, portfolio mana


Related Posts

  • Una mujer en una instalación industrial
    A Few Very Good Reasons to Protect the Integrity of Gender Bonds

    Latin America and the Caribbean has become a leading region in gender bond issuance aimed at bolstering women’s empowerment. These instruments offer a promising capital market solution to mobilize funds towards projects that help accelerate parity.

  • Una ejecutiva en una oficina
    How Can We Advance Gender Equality in the Private Sector? Financial Incentives May Help

    There is no shortage of women with the leadership qualities needed to run a business or excel in the workplace. What’s often missing are the opportunities to do so. Performance-based financial incentives can help fill this gap by motivating companies to advance gender equality in their operations.

  • Women in a meeting
    Women, Risks, and Opportunities

    Women have demonstrated ample evidence of strong leadership. Furthermore, from positions of leadership, we have successfully taken and successfully managed risks time and again. As entrepreneurs, we save more and pay better as an asset class. However, there is still much to do to achieve gender parity.