As diverse as the profession we represent?


IFoA Chief Executive Stephen Mann reflects on the importance of embracing and respecting diversity and encourages members to get involved and add their voice.

Diversity, equity and inclusion amongst our members

As we continue to pursue the IFoA’s ambitious 2020-24 strategy, our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is central to our work and ongoing conversations. However, this is not a new focus for the IFoA: back in 2013, we formed the Diversity Action Group (or DAG - formerly the Diversity Advisory Group), while Nick Salter made diversity the focus of his presidential year in 2015/16.

That tradition has carried over into more recent achievements, too – for instance, in September 2020, the IFoA’s ‘Count Me In’ campaign won Best Equality, Diversity or Inclusion Campaign category in the MemCom membership excellence awards. And while we have made meaningful progress over the past several years, we acknowledge there is so much more still to do.

The DAG was set up to address a lack of diversity within the actuarial profession as a whole, and their initial report in 2015, Bringing the benefits of gender diversity to all, found that just 38% of IFoA students and 24% of Fellows were women, and that women, on average, were leaving the profession 13 years earlier than men.

In collaboration with the IFoA, the DAG has since supported a programme of activities aimed at improving diversity in the IFoA and in the actuarial profession, including working with the social impact organisation Moving Ahead to establish the Actuarial Mentoring Programme, and running events such as ‘Your Actuarial Career: Managing career breaks’ and ‘Leading by Example’.

I am pleased to say that, at least in terms of gender equality, there is some movement in the right direction, with women making up 41.6% of students and 28.5% of Fellows in 2020. I would like to think that our efforts in recent periods have contributed to this progression.

The emergence of Black Lives Matters this year has raised some uncomfortable questions for society at large and it has been an important topic of conversation too at the IFoA. We have not rushed to make promises which might prove to be empty but have re-visited all our processes and policies, set up colleague advisory forums and are working with the DAG to improve our understanding of intersectional exclusion.

You can learn more about the IFoA’s approach to diversity and find the latest diversity content on our refreshed diversity webpage.

Diversity among IFoA leadership

The IFoA’s governing body, Council, typically comprises 30 volunteers, elected by the membership. Our current council includes 12 female Council members and representation from South Africa, China, Zimbabwe, Switzerland, India, and Singapore, alongside those from the UK.

One of those based in Singapore is, of course, our current President, Tan Suee Chieh.

Over the last ten years we have had three female Presidents, our first Black President and our first Asian President. The IFoA has benefitted hugely from the wider perspectives that this diversity has provided and know that the profession is strengthened by it. We are committed to being as international and diverse as the profession we represent.

I am grateful to all our volunteers for the time and dedication they give so generously to the IFoA and for the benefit of all our members, and look forward to seeing that pool of talent expand both in diversity and in number.

Diversity, equity and inclusion in our organisation

At the same time as seeking to broaden our appeal across our membership – as we expand into more global territories – we need to ensure that our organisation is representative of its membership. Supporting the work that we do are the ideas, insights and efforts of more than 4,000 volunteers, the majority of whom are members. Our volunteers come from all over the world and, using digital technology, are able to contribute and help advance the IFoA remotely.

We will be exploring the diversity within this group in the near future. But in the meantime, I’d encourage you to think about whether you might have a contribution to make. You may wish to take a look at our Volunteer vacancies to see areas and roles that may appeal to you.

In particular, DAG is currently calling for members to join a new Volunteer Group to support their activities.

Personal reflections

As a few final and personal reflections, I have a strong personal belief that organisations should not be judged on what they say (which is easy to do) but what they do and what they measure progress against (which is harder).

This starts with making Diversity, Equality and Inclusion part of our everyday conversations and with me, as your CEO, creating a safe and supportive environment for them to be had.

In many ways, our international reach is both a help and a hindrance in that, while it is good to have such a diverse membership reach and to see the huge amount of personal respect I have seen between actuaries wherever they are based, it can be tempting to think that there is not much more to be done. In reality, while there are some good areas of progress this journey is never complete.

The emergence of Black Lives Matters into our consciousness this year is also a good reminder of how quickly things can change and bring to the surface again deep-rooted and heart-felt emotions and sentiments which may never have been fundamentally addressed.

We have an opportunity and obligation to do so.


My volunteering

The new ‘My volunteering’ resource allows you to tell us what topics are of interest to you, so that we can notify you when opportunities arise.

‘My Volunteering’ has been designed to make it easier for members to hear about volunteer opportunities that might be of interest, encouraging more members to get involved and boosting the diversity of our volunteer community. 

You can opt out at any time, putting you in control, and allowing us to keep you informed.  

Log in to your IFoA ‘My Account’ and select the Contact Preferences icon to access ‘My volunteering’.