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Haven Life Q&A: The International Association of Black Actuaries

A candid conversation with the leaders of one of our industry’s most important organizations

At Haven Life, one of our team’s mottos is “We matter to each other.” This mindset applies both inside and outside the (currently virtual) walls of our office. Case in point: The International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA). Several Haven Life actuaries have been involved with the organization, and we wanted to spotlight its important work — including a new website detailing the often-fraught history of race and insurance — on our blog.

To do so, we spoke with the organization’s executive director, Kate Weaver, and president, Dwayne Husbands, about the organization’s important work, its goals for the future, and how anyone reading this post can get involved. Here’s what they told us.

Haven Life: Congratulations on the launch of the new site, Black History and the Evolution of the Insurance Industry in America. What was the genesis of this project?

Kate Weaver: At our 2020 annual meeting, like everyone else, we had to quickly shift to a virtual format. As we were putting the agenda together in May [and] June, of course, there was the George Floyd murder and the Black Lives Matter movement was really ramping up, and companies were [expressing] support for the movement on their websites. And we decided, let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s call this exactly what it is, which is racism in the actuarial profession, and have an honest dialogue with a panel about the Black experience in the corporate setting. And you can see that on YouTube.

HL: That’s great.

KW: One of our members, Tomantha Kyle, created a historical timeline of race and insurance. And that was what we used to build this website.

HL: What has the impact been so far?

KW: What we found is there was a lot of demand for it. ‘Can we have that presentation? It’s so important, can we share it?’

HL: Amazing.

KW: The Casualty Actuarial Society had a session where Tomantha was included on that panel again, and they went over the timeline. And it was actually the CAS that said, “We think that this would be an incredible tool to have a website where people can access the timeline, where it can be a living, breathing thing where we add information as we learn of it,” along the same sort of development as critical race theory, and how schools were starting to really analyze how has racism in America impacted the history of our country and systems that still exist today. So we partnered with the Casualty Actuarial Society to create a place to house that timeline.

HL: What has been the reception, both within the industry and with the public?

KW: I have the privilege of working with mostly allies in the profession, so I, of course, hear the praise. And I’ve definitely gotten a number of recommendations for things that might be missing from the timeline, or ways that we can enhance it. I am sure that there are the same haters of the content as there are for the idea of implementing critical race theory in public education. But I don’t hear that feedback.

HL: For sure.

KW: I’ve heard organizations want to publicize the timeline. We would like to share it with the college community as well because it’s important for people to understand, like, how has insurance pricing been impacted by this timeline?

HL: Did any of the learnings surprise you in creating the timeline?

KW: I think that probably the Black audience was not particularly surprised by some of the information that was in there. I think where I feel like the timeline is most helpful is for the people that say, ‘But I don’t understand. The actuarial profession is a meritocracy. And you have the same opportunity to sit for an exam as anybody else.’ I think it’s really helpful for that audience to see it has not been fair. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that a Black person was literally not able to sit for an actuarial exam because of the color of their skin. And we’re not talking about, you know, 150 years ago. We’re talking about a generation that’s not very far removed [from today]. And what would explain why Dwayne may not have an uncle or a family friend that is working in the actuarial profession.

The timeline is also helpful for people that may just grapple with, like, why does the IABA need to exist? Why do we keep defaulting to the fact that the system is unfair? Well, the proof is right here.

“It wasn’t that long ago that a Black person was literally not able to sit for an actuarial exam because of the color of their skin.”

—Kate Weaver, executive director, International Association of Black Actuaries

HL: For someone reading this post and maybe learning about the IABA for the first time, what are some ways they can get involved or help contribute in some way?

KW: The biggest hurdle that we have to get over is awareness of the profession — [we need] more hands helping at the middle school and high school level and just sharing that the profession exists. I also think we need mentorship, we need companies that are willing to say that we’re going to go into a community college and take mathematically talented students and give them an opportunity, and part of that opportunity is exposure to the profession.

Dwayne Husbands: We’ve got to be more creative in our search. It can’t just be looking at a resume and looking at two [actuarial] exams. It’s looking at, Where are we getting these resumes from? Are there alternative avenues we can explore where we can recruit talent to the profession?

HL: What are some of the other challenges facing you right now and how are you overcoming them?

KW: For me personally, if we come back to really the origin of the timeline, which was the Black Lives Matter movement, summer 2020. That was the start of an incredible influx of support from companies that were really just dipping their toes in the DEI space before. There was a huge influx of support for IABA, so I feel like the challenge that we have is, how do we really engage companies to do the work that frankly, they don’t really want to be doing.

HL: What do you mean?

KW: What a company wants to do is dive into a college audience and find some great talent, and then they’re now in that company’s pipeline and they can be a full-time hire in a year or two. We need companies to really be engaging a number of years before that.

DH: I would add that one of the big challenges is, we even looked inwards to see what we can do better to serve our members and in the profession going forward. We introduced a lot of new things, such as the IABA pledge. For us to really have transformative change within the industry, we’re going to need more partnerships and more help from the rest of the industry, including the SOA [Society of Actuaries] to CAS, employers and colleges, to really really see that change overall be transformative.

HL: If someone reading this is either in the industry, or thinking of joining it, what should they know about IABA?

KW: I would say that IABA has always been really good at providing something for everyone. Whether you are a high school student or a seasoned actuary, it’s an incredible opportunity for career development. That’s why we have so many programs and so many initiatives because someone like Dwayne, who’s been in the profession for over 15 years, is in need of peer support, and the leadership opportunities that IABA provides he may not be getting in the workplace. And you have amazing opportunities for college students that might win the IABA scholarship, [which includes] an internship. And now they’ve got their foot in the door and they’ve been enveloped with the support of the company, as well as IABA and all the resources that come with that.

DH: In addition to that, we’re also a community, so there’s individuals and members who rely on one another. We provide that comfort blanket to those individuals and sense if they need advice in terms of their career, even outside of a traditional mentor or mentee — which we do offer. You have access to a community that can provide assistance in helping you navigate and create your career, and that is tailored to your own personal experience,

HL: Is there anything else you want to mention?

DH: The only thing I would add is just a reminder that IABA is open to everyone. In terms of volunteerism, we’re open to anyone who really supports our mission and vision. So if there are individuals who are looking to get involved, but might not necessarily think they fit the criteria of the organization, that’s untrue — as long as you support our mission and vision, we do encourage you to volunteer.

Learn more about the International Association of Black Actuaries by visiting their website. To learn about Black History and the Evolution of the Insurance Industry in America, visit the online timeline.

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About Louis Wilson

Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.

Read more by Louis Wilson

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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