A month ago I, like many other general insurance actuaries, was at GIRO, our annual conference. There were around 650 people there, slightly under 20% of whom were women. And the proportion of speakers who were women was even lower (many thanks to Kathryn Morgan for the stats). I think it’s fair to say that the actuarial profession hasn’t been at the forefront of women’s rights: the Institute of Actuaries was founded in 1848, and women were first admitted to membership in 1919. The first woman fellow was Dorothy Davis, in 1923. Jane Curtis, the current President, is the first woman to hold the post. I’m pretty sure that when I qualified, in the mid 80’s, there were fewer than 100 women fellows.
Way back in the mists of time (1954), Monica Allanach, Pat Merriman and others started holding ladies’ tea parties, informal get-togethers for women actuaries. Over time the Ladies’ Actuarial Dining Society grew out of the tea parties, but now it’s being wound up. So last week we had a party in Staple Inn, the home of the Institute of Actuaries, to mark the end of the LADS and to recognise the achievements of women in mathematics.
It was a great evening, with about 50 or 60 of us there. Jane Curtis gave a short speech outlining the reasons for our being there, and Suw Charman-Anderson, the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, talked about the need for female role models in science, technology, engineering and maths. So we celebrated the achievements of all the fantastic women who have preceded us, including all those early women actuaries, and were urged to go out and inspire others.
Suw said that one of the reasons why she founded Ada Lovelace day was because she got fed up of the tech industry’s continual excuses for the lack of women speakers at conferences. Which brings us full circle.