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How to retain women in the actuarial profession

Daniel Evans

women in actuary

How do we retain women in the actuarial profession?

We are becoming increasingly aware of the multiple benefits of having a diverse workforce. In traditionally male-dominated professions like the actuarial sector, much progress has already been made. There is more to do, however, particularly in retaining women who come into the professional, and to ensuring there are role models in senior leadership positions.

Although numbers of women heading into the profession are growing, a survey conducted in 2018 found that just 23% of UK actuaries were women. That figure represents a problem with retention, not with recruitment. Women leave the profession 13 years earlier than their male counterparts, according to analysis from the UK Institute and Faculty of Actuaries Diversity Advisory Group. This is specifically non-retiring numbers. The analysis also showed that under 10% of women surveyed believed it was easy for them to progress in the field. These statistics are fairly indicative of the global industry – and are better, in fact, than the figures in both the USA and Australia.

What’s the answer?

Both men and women are equally placed to do well in an actuarial career when they come into the profession. They are usually equally qualified and suited to the role, and they should receive the same mentoring and training within the same firm.

Closing the gender pay gap – this exists across most companies. In the UK, companies with more than 250 employees are required to publish gender pay gap statistics and this has already encouraged many to look at why the gap exists and how they can close it. Firms who are losing women actuaries should take a look at their pay data and see if there’s a gap and, if so, how they can close it.

Change working policies – one of the reasons for a lack of senior women actuaries is the difficulty women face in coming back to the profession after maternity leave. It’s a fact that women face longer gaps from their career, as they are typically the ones to look after childen, and the knock-on effect that this has on their careers can be significant

Many women find it difficult to achieve promotions or re-enter the world of work in the position they left at due to the perceived gap in their experience or not having been able to keep up with the latest industry trends and practices. Organisations who don’t have flexible policies are potentially missing out on talented, productive and ambitious women who can add significant value. Looking at how you support women during maternity leave, how you encourage them back to the profession and how you mentor and support them on their return is critical.

Make more of role models – whilst there is certainly a shortage of senior women in the profession, they are there. So it’s up to industry bodies and associations to make more of these women. Using their success and their stories helps to encourage other women to do the same. And these senior women can have more influence over recruitment and promotion processes to help lift other women up alongside them.

There are plenty of fantastic actuarial candidates on the market. Women looking for a career, or a return to work in the profession will be drawn to forward-thinking, equal opportunities and equal pay organisations who are keen to benefit from the skills and talents they bring.

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