October 2016

Diversity in the Actuarial Profession—An Update

By Barry McKeown

An article, "Diversity in the Actuarial Profession", appeared in the April, 2014 edition of Expanding Horizons. There have been some important developments since that article was written. Of significant note, both the SOA and the CAS have adopted Diversity and Inclusion Statements. The SOA Statement appears below:

SOA Statement on Diversity and Inclusion

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) best fulfills its mission when it is diverse and inclusive of all individuals. Openness to 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.

In 2015, an SOA Diversity Task Force was established. This task force made eight recommendations which were adopted by the SOA Board of Directors. These recommendations include establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, drafting a Diversity and Inclusion Statement (above), collect and report racial, ethnic and general demographic data, initiate a research project to identify the root cause of minority under-representation in the actuarial profession, and increase diversity in actuarial meetings and publications.

In 2016, an SOA Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC) was established, which in addition to SOA members includes representatives from the CAS and the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA). A market research study will take place in 2016 which will identify barriers to entry to the actuarial profession for underrepresented groups. The SOA, CAS and IABA will jointly sponsor this study. Both the SOA and CAS will look to have a greater diversity focus at its meetings through more diverse speakers and presenters and more topics on diversity.

Additional information about diversity and inclusion appears on the SOA and CAS websites.


The actuarial profession does not have the diversity that it needs or desires. Black, Hispanic and Native American populations are underrepresented. There is significant competition among professions for top students. Other professions, such as engineering, are better known and have long standing initiatives in place to introduce minority students to their professions. Many high school students choose colleges and majors based on careers they already know about and are considering while in high school. It is important that these top students are aware of the actuarial profession when they are making these decisions.  

The Joint Committee on Career Encouragement and Actuarial Diversity (JCCEAD), a joint committee of the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society, promotes actuarial diversity by making presentations at high schools and supporting summer actuarial programs at colleges targeted at minority high school students. Howard University, Illinois State University, Morgan State University, West Chester University, Lebanon Valley College and DePaul University have summer actuarial science programs for minority high school students. These programs serve an important role in enabling students to make informed decisions about the actuarial profession.

The JCCEAD started over 30 years ago as the Minority Recruiting Committee to address the lack of diversity in the actuarial profession. The initial charge of this committee included promoting the profession to Women and Asian populations. The current underrepresented groups include Black/ African American, Hispanic and Native American. The mission of the JCCEAD is to promote a diverse actuarial profession by recruiting top mathematical and analytical talent from the African American, Hispanic and Native American communities. The objective is to increase total membership of underrepresented populations in the actuarial profession to their levels in the U.S. population.

Most actuarial employers have diversity policies and want a greater pool of diverse candidates available.  The academic community is already a partner in the effort to increase the diversity in the actuarial profession. The diversity efforts that the JCCEAD is aware of will be identified in this article. A number of other universities may already have an actuarial diversity initiative or are considering one. It is important to gather this information and share it within the actuarial profession.

It is almost certain that there are other initiatives underway and we hope to gather and maintain that data going forward. We would like to also ask other universities to consider exploring what they may do to help further diversify the actuarial profession.

Where Are We Today?

According to the 2010 census, African Americans were 13% of the U.S. population, Hispanics were 16% and Native Americans were 1%. The SOA completed a demographic survey around 2005 and this survey showed that African American were about 2% of the actuarial profession, Hispanics were also about 2% and Native Americans about 0.5%. Note that these numbers include those who are still taking exams who have not yet reached at least an Associate level. If only those in the profession who had reached ASA and FSA were considered, these levels would be at about half the rate shown. While this survey is dated and there has been some positive movement in recent years, there is much more to do. 

Actuarial Diversity – Current Partners

  • Actuarial Employers
  • Joint Committee on Career Encouragement and Actuarial Diversity
  • Casualty Actuarial Society
  • Society of Actuaries
  • International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA)
  • The Actuarial Foundation
  • The Academic Community
  • Society for Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) (future partners?)

As noted earlier, actuarial employers are looking for a larger pool of diverse (underrepresented) candidates.

The CAS and SOA jointly sponsor the JCCEAD and provide the necessary funds to help them with their work.

The mission of the IABA is to contribute to an increase in the number of black actuaries and to influence the successful career development, civic growth and achievement of black actuaries. The IABA has outreach initiatives targeted at high school and college students and provides a strong network of support throughout one’s career. Scholarship opportunities are available to top students and mentors are also available. Many of the largest actuarial employers are part of the IABA Corporate Advisory Council.

The Actuarial Foundation assumed the scholarship and mentoring that had previously been handled by the JCCEAD. These programs have grown under the direction of the Actuarial Foundation.

SACNAS and AISES are two organizations who look to increase the representation of their groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) based studies and careers. The JCCEAD has participated in the annual meetings of these two organizations and began introducing the actuarial profession to students, educators and professionals. These efforts are expected to continue in future years. 

Summer Programs

Summer programs typically target rising high school seniors and provide them with information about the actuarial profession as they are getting ready to consider their college choices. There is a wide range in the structure of these programs, but they are all designed to give the student valuable information so they can make an informed decision about studying actuarial science in college. Universities hosting 2016 summer programs are Howard University, Illinois State University, Morgan State University, West Chester University, Lebanon Valley College and DePaul University. There is additional information about these summer programs on the BeAnActuary web site.

The newest summer program is DePaul University and they had a very successful program in 2016.  An article in this issue of Expanding Horizons further describes the program.

Diversity Scholarships

  • Actuarial Foundation Diversity Scholarships
  • IABA
    • IABA Foundation Scholarships
    • IABA Co-branded scholarships (2016 partners  - Allstate, DWSimpson, Ernst & Young,            Liberty Mutual, New  York Life, Prudential, Travelers, Willis TowersWatson)
  • Morgan State University (Morgan State, Travelers Edge)
  • Mutual Of Omaha
  • Robert Morris University/ Highmark Presidential Actuarial Scholarship

The scholarships range from several hundred dollars to full tuition (Morgan State, Robert Morris). Some scholarships will lead to a paid internship, which is a very important benefit.

Next Steps

While there are many positive events happening to increase diversity in the actuarial profession, much more needs to be done to reach the level that the profession, especially actuarial employers, needs.

As noted above, the IABA is an organization whose mission is to contribute to an increase in the number of black actuaries and to influence the successful career development, civic growth and achievement of black actuaries.  There is discussion underway to consider a Hispanic organization that would operate like the IABA.

Many university actuarial programs are experiencing their highest number of students. While these programs are growing, participation by underrepresented minorities may not be keeping pace. One of the greatest challenges is to have our outreach efforts reach as many of the top minority students as possible. If every top minority (underrepresented) student has thorough knowledge of all professions, there would be much greater diversity in the actuarial profession.  We are competing with many better known professions (engineering, the sciences, technology to name a few), who also have a strong diversity focus. Every university has many links to high schools and some actuarial science professors encourage their students to go back to their high schools and make a presentation about the actuarial profession. It would help the diversity effort if information about summer programs and diversity scholarships can be provided to high school teachers and minority students.

The JCCEAD will be maintaining data on all diversity related activities. If your university is currently involved, or plan to be involved, in a diversity related activity that is not noted in this article, please let the author know.  

Increasing the entry level pool from underrepresented populations will be a critical element of increasing diversity in the actuarial profession.

Barry McKeown, ASA is a retired actuary from WillisTowersWatson. He is a member of the Joint Committee on Career Encouragement and Diversity and a member of the SOA Inclusion and Diversity Committee. He can be reached at barry.mckeown@sbcglobal.net