The actuarial profession is taking steps to increase diversity, equity and inclusion among its ranks, beginning with students in college.
A panel discussion at the American Academy of Actuaries annual meeting revealed some of the ways the profession is reaching out to underrepresented groups and increasing DEI in its ranks.
Sherry Chan is one of the cofounder of Abacus Actuaries, an organization of Asian American and Pacific Islander actuaries and their allies. She said the organization was started about two years ago and its founding was inspired by the wave of anti-AAPI hate crimes that broke out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goal: 'Break the bamboo ceiling"
“Our goal is to break the bamboo ceiling - those barriers that prevent the AAPI community from advancing,” she said. Chan said the organization’s flagship program is a mentorship program that grew to 80 pairings this year.
Increasing the Latino participation in the industry is the mission of the Organization of Latino Actuaries, said Enrique Schulz, the organization’s secretary.
Schulz said 20% of the U.S. college population is Latino, making the country’s college and university campuses a prime place to begin diversifying the profession. OLA designs programs that align with the college student pipeline, he said. The organization offers exam programs, exam reimbursements and scholarships aimed at attracting Latino students into the profession. OLA also offers students a virtual career fair and sponsors students to attend industry conferences.
The Sexuality and Gender Alliance of Actuaries is a networking organization for LGBTQ+ actuaries and students. “We want to create a safe space to have a dialogue and to encourage people to mentor others,” said SAGAA board member Ron Gebhartsbauer. “SAGAA’s purpose is to educate the actuarial profession and the insurance industry on our issues.”
Among SAGAA’s activities is creating resume booklets of LGBTQ+ students who are looking for jobs in the industry, he said.
David Scharf is a member of and volunteers with the Network of Actuarial Women and Allies, whose mission is to empower women from all backgrounds to succeed in the actuarial profession.
Mentorship needed, but not enough
Mentorship is a key element in increasing DEI but it’s not enough, Scharf said. “Sponsors are powerful and can influence someone’s career,” he said.
The International Association of Black Actuaries is looking at ways to increase the number of Black actuaries by targeting career-changes, said Dwayne Husbands, association president.
“In 2017, we participated in a study of the barriers for underrepresented groups in the profession,” he said. “We found that underrepresented groups find the profession later in their careers than others do.”
Husbands said his association has created an annual “boot camp” as well as various virtual modules and onsite professional development sessions to ramp up their education of the profession.
The Social Asian Network of Actuaries’ vision is to create a strong network of South Asians in the profession, said Pooja Gattu, the group’s networking co-chair.
Most companies take a top-down approach to diversity, Gattu said. “Most C-suite executives pledge to diversify the employee base,” she said. “But because it is such a top-down approach, a lot of it is lost in translation and doesn’t trickle down to various departments.”
Gattu suggested one way to diversify the workforce is for companies to “train your recruiter to have their DEI lens open.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.