'Now is the time to act.' – Why diversity, equity and inclusion matters to the actuarial profession.
Not so long ago, I was invited to talk to some university students as part of a panel during Black History Month. At the end of the session, I was approached by a young student, surprised to see me speaking about the actuarial profession. To my great sadness, she told me that she was interested in an actuarial career but had stopped herself from applying due to concerns that she did not fit and it was not a profession for people like her – a London-based young black woman. I might have been talking to my younger self. Indeed, many years ago I talked myself out of applying to Oxford and Cambridge for similar reasons and landed in the actuarial profession by chance rather than by design. It was crushing to hear that, seemingly, so little had changed in all these years. In actual fact, it was a significant driver of the energy I have channelled over the years in thinking about and pushing for greater diversity in the profession and in the workplace.
I am delighted therefore to see the launch of the IFoA DEI strategy. While I and many others have been ‘doing’ D&I in and around the profession for a number of years, this marks a step change. Having co-chaired the steering group that led to this strategy, I can attest to the thinking and focus that has been directed at this over the past year.
There is an understanding that we must do this. There is also recognition that this is not a tick-box exercise and that this is not a once and done initiative where we expect to have achieved diversity after a couple of years. This is a significant commitment to deliver on a good number of specific actions and in so doing generate momentum to move us substantially closer to our identified objectives.
We have looked at where we are and where we have come from and the truth is that we are a long way short of where we need to be in order to maintain relevance, to be fully accessible and to be a future fit.
Our ambition is high, and we are seeking to be bold – not least because the breadth of what we are looking to deliver covers not just representation, accessibility, interaction with employers and partners, and leadership, but also the work of actuaries. This is rightly going to be contentious, and I am looking forward to having the discussions with as many members as possible to establish what we can and must do to lean into the challenges.
We are now sharing the strategy and we will be routinely and unapologetically updating on the body of work over the coming months as we want to hold ourselves to account. Myself and the rest of the Diversity Action Group (DAG) will be overseeing the activity and helping to drive the change forward. Of course, we have a number of passionate and committed individuals who will throw themselves into this challenge.
However, this is not enough and if this happens, we will fail. Undoubtedly.
This is not for somebody else to fix. This is not a nice-to-have.
If you agree, please be active and proactive. If you disagree, please be part of a grown-up conversation and see where we can agree. If you are indifferent, I reserve the right to continue to reach out to you over the next few months and hopefully persuade you to support, participate or act.
So, whether you agree, disagree or are indifferent – now is the time to engage. Now is the time to act. Your profession needs you.