From analysis to action on DEI

Man presenting on flipchart board to two female colleagues

The financial, community and wellbeing benefits of having a diverse workforce are now well documented. Recent research shows that diverse teams make better and quicker decisions, too. Having a wide range of backgrounds improves decision-making by bringing together different methods of thinking, and so sharpening performance. Companies that have a higher gender, racial and ethnic mix are also more likely to have higher financial returns. I am pleased that the IFoA recognises the benefits and is continuing to prioritise diversity through its new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy.

This focus is not new – the IFoA has explored a set of initiatives to not only promote the widening of access to the profession but also to raise awareness of the expansive nature of the work carried out by the profession. The curriculum set by the IFoA to prepare actuaries for work outside the traditional fields of insurance and pensions has built understanding among a wide pool of potential future actuaries. In particular, its Certificate in Data Science and 2019 curriculum restructure has opened up wider avenues for actuaries to contribute and bring value.

Other initiatives have focused on rebalancing the profession by exploring its makeup and ensuring that members feel valued and respected within the profession. The Actuarial Mentoring Programme was originally established to retain female actuaries within the profession through ongoing career advice and development. It now has a wider aim of creating a culture of inclusion within the profession. More recently, the IFoA COVID-19 Action Taskforce brought together actuaries to investigate the impact of Covid on insurance companies, banks and other financial services. The breadth of the volunteer group allowed the taskforce to create an impressive set of far-reaching research and reports. The diversity of the IFoA membership made this possible.

Of course, there is more work to be done. The IFoA members diversity survey in 2021 showed respondents coming from a wide range of backgrounds in terms of nationality, sexuality and socio-economic background. The results also showed an impressive spread of members across the world, particularly in Europe, Africa and Asia. However, there were two particular causes for concern. Firstly, the observed trend to gender imbalance in senior roles is still present. While the proportions of younger female and male respondents were roughly equal, in older age groups the proportion of female actuaries shrunk. Secondly, the survey also showed that respondents came from a socioeconomic background that is more privileged than the respective working population. While the actuarial profession is far from alone in this, it should be a cause for concern and action in the profession.

My hope is that the IFoA DEI Strategy, in promoting an inclusive profession, continues to improve the profession's diversity. The strategy aims to support its employees, members and employers in creating a more equal, fair and professional working environment. It will do this by using its control, influence and voice in appropriate environments, and will also rely on working with numerous stakeholders who have an association with the profession (eg universities, recruiters, IFoA committees, the IFoA Foundation). This holistic approach encompasses a set of actions that will manifest itself in reports about committee composition, events promoting the widening of access and the consideration of diversity, equity and inclusion within existing guidance such as the Actuaries Code.

The strategy also states that volunteers will become DEI champions through guidance created, or signposted to, by the IFoA. This creates a great opportunity to not only become involved with IFoA activity but to become a point of support for others within your organisation and those around you. I encourage those interested to contact the Diversity Action Group about how to get involved and make a difference.