Working to Move the Needle

The SOA continues to build on a solid foundation of D&I initiatives Sara Teppema

In the February/March 2019 issue of The Actuary, Ying Zhao, FSA, MAAA, interviewed Craig Reynolds, FSA, MAAA, about his (and others’) efforts to raise diversity and inclusion (D&I) to an issue of importance and urgency for the Society of Actuaries (SOA). The SOA laid a strong foundation by including D&I in the current Strategic Plan and explicitly calling out D&I as one of the key strategies for Insight & Influence. The SOA’s D&I statement is:

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) best fulfills its mission when it is diverse and inclusive of all individuals. Openness to and acceptance of diverse perspectives, cultures and backgrounds helps to attract the best talent and ensures the overall inclusivity of the actuarial profession.

The SOA welcomes the membership and participation of all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or national origin.

I had been watching all of this work from the sidelines when I was elected to the SOA Board last fall, so I was thrilled to accept the SOA president’s offer to chair the SOA’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC). It is a huge honor, and I do not take this responsibility lightly.

During the past few months, I’ve been working with SOA staff and volunteer leaders to understand the infrastructure supporting D&I (committees, organizations, funding mechanisms, etc.) within the actuarial profession. So far, I’ve met with people from other actuarial organizations focused on D&I, including the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) and the Organization for Latino Actuaries (OLA). I attended LGBTQ and Ally receptions at the SOA Health Meeting and the SOA Annual Meeting & Exhibit (watch for these receptions at all of our major meetings!), and I have met with folks from my own company to learn more about how we are working to create a more diverse actuarial profession. The level of positive and progressive energy is truly inspiring and will guide the SOA’s work as we continue to collaborate and work toward our collective D&I goals.

Speaking of goals, an important activity in 2019 and beyond will be increasing awareness of the actuarial profession for African-American and Hispanic students. Some background: In 2017, the SOA, CAS, IABA and The Actuarial Foundation collaborated to field a market research study to understand why African-American and Hispanic students were underrepresented in the profession. The study identified existing barriers throughout the actuarial career pipeline. Lack of awareness ranked as a primary barrier to students considering the profession as they make decisions about undergraduate programs.

This market research resulted in the SOA forming the Awareness Task Force with collaborating organizations, employers and others. They were tasked with evaluating marketing and communication efforts to raise awareness of the actuarial profession among U.S. students, their parents, teachers, counselors and other influencers.

The task force learned the power of digital marketing and how creating a funnel of conversion points (from watching a video to engaging a mentor or attending a High School Actuarial Day) toward the goal of registering for an exam can change the future of the profession and encourage a new generation of actuaries.

In addition to continued collaboration and evaluation of the awareness issue and increasing the number of our members who complete their enhanced demographic profile, the IDC will be busy looking for ways the SOA can be more inclusive. Giving everyone a seat at the table is a great start. To optimize the benefits of diversity, we need to ensure all voices around the table are heard and can have a real discourse about the future of the profession.

I am so excited to continue to build on the solid foundation of D&I that has been established in recent years. I look forward to an ongoing discussion, and welcome all comments, feedback and dialogue on inclusion, diversity or any other topic.

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Sara Teppema, FSA, MAAA, is DVP and actuary, Provider Payment Innovation and Analytics, at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Copyright © 2019 by the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois.