It’s all biblical

Frances Coppola has an interesting take on how the positions of both women and men in society are changing.


Models and modellers

On 1 March I gave the Worshipful Company of Actuaries lecture at Heriot-Watt University. Here’s the abstract:

Being an actuary nowadays is all about modelling, and in this lecture I’ll discuss how we should go about it. We all know that all models are wrong but some are useful – what does this mean in practice? And what have sheep and elephants got to do with it? Along the way I’ll also consider some of the ways in which the actuarial profession is changing now and is likely to change in the future, and what you should do about it.

And here’s what I said.

Data Society

Where the money is

I love the Guardian’s datablog. It consistently presents large quantities of data in interesting interactive ways. Yesterday it took data from the annual survey of hours and earnings, and presented it in three different ways:

  • Choose a salary, and see how earnings for different jobs compare
  • Choose a job, and see what the earnings are
  • Choose a job group

To my mind, one of the most interesting aspects, and one which the presentation highlights, is the gender gap and how it varies between jobs. It seems to be greatest for the highest paid jobs, on the whole.

Actuaries are lumped in with management consultants, economists and statisticians, not necessarily a totally homogeneous grouping, and have a gender difference of 18%. The difference for corporate managers and senior officials is 39%.

Today, it’s got a geographic analysis based on the same data. Guess what? London and the south east come out top.

One of the best things about the datablog is that, as well as coming up with good ways of presenting the data, it also provides access to the raw data so you can do your own thing, or check that the conclusions are in fact warranted. Great stuff.

Actuarial Women

Inspired by Ada Lovelace

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.



Ada Lovelace day

I missed Ada Lovelace day! It was last week, and is intended to recognise women in maths, science and technology. Ada Lovelace was Byron’s daughter, and worked on Babbage’s Analytic Engine, and has been called the world’s first computer programmer.


Women’s suffrage – old hat?

You might think that the struggle for women’s suffrage is over, especially with the recent news about Saudi women. But you’d be wrong, according to this interesting blog.