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Promoting gender diversity in the actuarial profession

Gender diversity is not just about increasing the number of women in the profession, it is about what we will lose if we don’t."

These are the words of our Past President Nick Salter who made diversity his Presidential Theme in 2015. With this in mind, the IFoA jumped at the chance to support a mentoring programme specifically designed to help build a pipeline of senior female talent.

The actuarial mentoring programme, known as Project AMP, was launched on November 6th at Holborn’s Staple Inn. It is sponsored by the Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC) and being managed by specialist diversity and development organisation, Moving Ahead.

Project AMP has received support from some of the biggest employers of actuaries in the country. Alongside sponsors PIC, these are: the Prudential Regulation Authority, Aviva, Phoenix Group, Mercer, Lane Clark & Peacock, Barnett Waddingham, Xafinity, and the Government Actuary’s Department. 

The challenges around gender diversity are complex and varied. Interestingly, women and men are attracted to the actuarial profession in fairly equal numbers. The drop off among women happens further down the career path. Research from the IFoA’s member-led Diversity Advisory Group shows that non-retiring female actuaries are leaving the profession 13 years earlier than their male peers.

There are many reasons for this and no one-size-fits-all solution. But we do know it’s a problem and believe mentoring can be a very powerful way to provide support, help career development, nurture talent and boost confidence. Equally, it provides an opportunity for women in the actuarial profession to discuss the barriers they are facing and consider ways to break those down.  There are powerful benefits for mentors as well as for mentees, with the mentoring process typically improving relationship-building skills and leadership qualities.

We know that for mentoring to be meaningful, the process needs to structured and carefully managed. Moving Ahead has specific expertise in this area and its sister organization, Women Ahead, designs and delivers the UK’s largest cross-company gender mentoring scheme on behalf of the 30% Club, with 1,550 participants in 2017/18.

Project AMP will match 100 senior male and female mentors with recently and nearly qualified female actuaries in cross-functional and inter-disciplinary posts. These mentoring pairs will meet every four-to-six weeks for nine months, and will attend a series of high-impact learning and networking events to build on their mentoring journeys.

The benefits of a diverse workforce have been well documented and we want the actuarial profession to reap those benefits. But first, we need to find ways to address the challenges and barriers in place and ensure that our profession is diverse at all levels - from the student starting out right through to top-level management. We are proud to support Project AMP and will keep you updated on its progress.

Go to our Diversity Advisory Group page to read more about Project AMP and diversity at the IFoA.