GENDER EQUALITY IN FOCUS – CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Actuarial science is a job that constantly asks the question, “what if?”. One of the biggest questions we can ask right now is “what if there was a level playing field for female talent in the actuarial profession?”
There has been a lot of discourse around women’s opportunities in STEM and whilst there’s been progress in levelling opportunities, there’s common consensus that more can be done.
We are proud to have a great pool of talented women in our diverse workforce at Dynamo, and asked them about their career progression. We were delighted to learn that they consider their contribution so far has been sought and respected by their colleagues and employers.
A recent hire, Kemi Bello, currently studying to complete her actuarial exams, agrees that more could be done to raise awareness about the industry. “The industry has changed a lot and there’s a lot more diversity over the years. In schools and sixth forms there is a lot more work being done to get girls into science and math so that’s helping. Now we are starting to see women reaching higher levels of seniority.” However, she says, “I only decided to become an actuary on results day when mum’s friend told her about actuarial science. I don’t think I would have heard about it before. But there are really good roles out there.”
Having solid advice or introductions to the industry at an early age could mean more women (and other underrepresented groups) rising up the ranks. Kemi says, “In this industry there are loads of intelligent people so you have to do something that sets you apart, such as programming. Just being good at Excel isn’t enough these days. Keep your technical skills up to date.” She adds, “Don’t wait for opportunities. Be visible, be bold and ask for things. That’s how people value you.”
Happily, Kemi says she’s experienced these opportunities at Dynamo. “I can go along to meetings and I am given the opportunity to have my voice heard. People do listen and respect others and are willing to take feedback on board.” This combination of technical skills and actuarial know-how is key to process transformation.
For Ashka Shah, being promoted on ability irrelevant of gender has been important to her. “I am aware there’s a drive to push for equality, however it should not be based on achieving targets, but based on capability,” she says. Ashka joined Dynamo in April 2020 as a senior consultant in the UK office. An established qualified actuary, she says, “I have never thought ‘Oh I can’t do that because I’m a woman’.”
The Hewlett Packard report identifies that women report needing to feel 100% perfect before going for an opportunity, while men are happy to work at 60%. Ashka agrees, the confidence gap resonates and she’s had to learn to let that go in order to succeed. “Before Dynamo I remember looking at a job spec for a role that said I needed five to seven years post qualification in experience and I had two. I didn’t think I should go for it,” she says, “Eventually I decided that I had nothing to lose and went for it, but that feeling definitely resonates with me.”
Carien Swanepoel, studying to become a fellow in our South Africa business, has a different perspective and believes there is still some changing of societal norms that needs to take place. “We had about 20% women in our actuarial class but I saw that as a challenge,” she says, “Women have a different way of working with people, which I think the corporate world needs. Someone once told me that because you’re constantly surrounded by men, don’t lose your femininity. Think of it as a superpower that you can bring to the room.”
Carien is unsure how she would juggle this should she choose to raise a family in the future, believing her generation in South Africa still needs to address the impact of gender bias on parenting roles in dual career families. Carien shared that “As a woman who would love to have children one day, it really helps so much to know that there are companies who are willing to be flexible in order to help women to balance the two.”
Senior director Lori Tan agrees it is a juggle. Having had to work hard to maintain balance, she also acknowledges her privilege in living in Norway; a trailblazer for gender equality with strong representation of women at all levels. This, she says, “is enabled by not only the favourable maternity leave, but the paternity leave and encouragement of fathers to take an active role in parenting. It is quite striking, the number of fathers outside pushing babies in prams here in Norway!”. Moreover, Lori says she is seeing her male counterparts visibly demonstrating shared parental responsibility, which she thinks is helping set the standard within the team.
Allyship is key to this change and Dynamo is sensitive to this. Lori comments on how all role models play a huge part in this. “I was fortunate to have had (and to still have) male colleagues who believe in the need to bring diversity to the industry,” she says, “and as an enabler to this, the need to provide flexible conditions for parents.”
Co-founder and Managing Director Adrian Ericsson recognises that he has a role to play in supporting gender equality. He says, “It’s not about just one element of identity, it’s about all employees being able to be themselves at work, to know that colleagues respect their individuality, and not being a bystander to any inequality experienced.”
We’re not perfect and we know there is always more to be done, including exploring how to be an ally from a position of privilege. But by starting this conversation with our team we believe we are on the journey towards positive change.