There is an urgent need for more black female actuaries in South Africa. To coincide with Women?s Day, the South African Actuaries Development Programme (SAADP), supported by the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA) recently held a networking high tea to celebrate the young female actuarial students in the programme, who are helping to close the critical skills gap.
Despite the fact that the actuarial profession is central to the financial wellbeing of millions of South Africans, a recent research report conducted by the Actuarial Society of South Africa shows that the profession is not nearly representative of the diverse population groups of South Africa.
The number of actuaries in the country remains relatively small, with only 910 members and 1 305 student members in the South African Actuarial Society in 2010. Only 15% are women.
Speaking at the event, SAADP Executive Director Nokwanda Mkhize said: "There is a significant lack of actuaries in South Africa; further, a lack of black actuaries, and then even fewer female black actuaries. The entry barriers are incredibly high, and the challenges that these young women face are immense. Surviving university life, passing exams and getting jobs in businesses that support graduates to write their remaining professional courses are all big challenges. As women, we face even greater pressures from society.
We have to show students that what they are undertaking as a career carries significant weight, has the potential for far-reaching impact, and importantly - that they do not feel weighed down by this responsibility.'
Actuarial employers face the demands of employment equity legislation as well as specific targets for the participation of black women in the financial services industry as set out by the Financial Services Charter. But the talent pool is simply too small to satisfy the need.
CEO of INSETA, Sandra Dunn, said that "While that number is improving, more still needs to be done. The goals of the SAADP to produce more qualified black actuaries in South Africa is in perfect alignment with INSETA?s policy of transformation, and it is integral that as much support as possible is given to initiatives such as this which highlights difficulties facing female black actuaries, and offers support.'
INSETA helps finance the SAADP, which sees high-potential university students from second year and up receiving financial and motivational support to gain their actuarial science qualifications. The SAADP High Tea 2012, held on Saturday 4 August, offered female black actuarial students a platform of information sharing with working female actuaries.
Events like this are of key importance to the development of black female talent because financial aid, while a crucial enabler is not sufficient on its own; social support is vital as well.
"The standards of entry to study actuarial science are incredibly high, and the work intense. But once accepted learners are suddenly left to their own devices, and many cannot cope - especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are not used to the environment shift.
This is where the SAADP comes in; they offer the exact support these students need. The organization identifies needs, monitors and provides assistance, ensuring support to, and success of the learner,' says Dunn.With the right kind of support, such as INSETA and SAADP offer, more young black women could find themselves making major contributions to society in actuarial professions.