Equity can be defined as giving everyone what they need to be successful. The IWD 2023 campaign theme seeks to forge worldwide understanding about why equal opportunities aren’t enough, and a focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA.
International Women’s Day belongs to everyone, everywhere. Collectively, we can all help create a diverse, equitable and inclusive world.
1. Within your market/industry sector, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equity?
There has been a noticeable push over the last ten years within the actuarial industry to improve gender balance, particularly at a senior level. We’ve seen a range of approaches, from offering greater flexibility and scope for part-time working and/or a more open approach to candidates returning from a career break, through to more hardline strategies such as insisting on 50/50 balanced candidate shortlists for senior vacancies.
2. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies?
Whilst the approaches outlined above have had a positive impact, the fact remains that the actuarial profession as a whole is still imbalanced. Only 35% of UK actuaries are female. I think companies need to do more work with schools/colleges/universities to promote STEM subject career paths to female students in order to change the balance at entry-level, which will ultimately will result in more future female leaders in the actuarial profession.
3. What is your top advice for making job descriptions more inclusive?
Flexibility. Not just in terms of working arrangements on offer but also in terms of thinking more broadly about the skills that are really required to do a job. For example, focusing less on how many years of experience someone has and placing more value on wider competencies/capabilities and cultural fit.
4. Do you think that more companies adopting a hybrid working pattern has helped to shift pre-conceived conceptions about flexible working for women, and why?
Yes, definitely. Back in the days when I returned to work after having my first child and reduced my working week to 4 days, there was a sense that I was somehow taking a “step back”, that because I was in the office less, I was somehow less committed, or not able to work at the same level I’d worked at before having my daughter. It couldn’t have been further from the truth! I think that the shift to hybrid working post-Covid has done a lot to change that perception, and there is now a recognition that actually you don’t have to be in the office five days a week, physically sat at your desk from 8 am-6 pm, to make the same contribution.
5. What does being an effective ally for women look like to you?
Being a positive role model and not being afraid to challenge bias and inequality. Providing mentorship and advice in order to foster confidence and encourage contribution and ambition. It’s also about recognising the demands and choices that arise whilst trying to balance multiple, and sometimes conflicting, work and home commitments. It can be really tough at times but with the right support, it’s not impossible to keep all those plates spinning.