This week’s share your story features the Network of Actuarial Women and Allies from the perspective of Rae Warner, member of their board of directors. This is the first, of many, share your story articles that will feature DEI topics.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself
A: My name is Rae Warner. I am an out queer woman with about 15 years of experience in the Property and Casualty Actuarial space. In terms of diversity and inclusion, I’m really passionate about increasing women’s representation in the industry and just creating a more inclusive environment for all actuaries.
Over the years, I’ve been involved in that through mentoring, leading allyship programs, and different volunteering opportunities. I think that creating more inclusive workplaces requires buy in from everyone. This includes those from underrepresented groups, their co-workers, the industry, and the institutions. My philosophy around diversity and inclusion work has been to bring in all parties and develop actionable solutions.
Q: How did you get started in the actuarial field?
A: I’m actually from the South in an area where there’s not a lot of insurance companies or actuaries. I never even heard of what an actuary was until my senior year of college when I was studying applied financial math. Someone mentioned it as a potential job option, so I looked into it and decided to intern in the P&C industry while I was in grad school.
I just kind of fell in love with it and the ability to use analytics to drive business decisions. I’ve been happy in the field ever since.
Q: How did you get started with NAWA? I know you’ve always been passionate about diversity and inclusion but when did it come into your career?
A: I ended up working with Amber Rohde, the current president of NAWA, on some diversity and inclusion projects and offered to help with the panel at the kickoff event for NAWA. So, I got involved early with planning the kickoff and launch and all that. Doing the allyship panel for NAWA’s kickoff event really allowed me to work with the board and all the amazing panelists and see their vision and this organization come to life which was exciting. There was a really strong sense of community between the women and the allies that were involved in NAWA at that time, and I admittedly was hooked.
My desire was to broaden NAWA’s reach and impact in the industry. That led me to then raise my hand to co-lead the partnerships committee where we created the Corporate Action Council. After that, I joined the board during the first election this year. I’m thrilled to work with the members and partners to increase NAWA’s visibility in the industry and impact the profession.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Corporate Action Council?
A: Sure, it just got started. It’s a quarterly information sharing meeting between NAWA and our ultimate and founding sponsors. NAWA presents on our initiatives, the progress we’ve made on them or successes we’ve had and then how the sponsor funds are being used to support the mission. It’s also a space where the sponsors can collaborate with us on ways to partner and advance the mission and where we can share insights between sponsors, members, and NAWA leadership.
We also envision it in the future serving as a venue for tackling specific topics related to women in the Actuarial profession. For example, how do we reach women early on in their education to keep them excited about math? How do we introduce the actuarial profession earlier on to more women? Those kinds of things.
Q: I’m sure you know about Actuary Awareness Month, has NAWA discussed doing something similar?
A: I don’t know about a specific month but we’re in a lot of talks right now. We’re also looking at doing something with the Association of Women in Math conference coming up. We do university visits currently as well where we go to universities talk about being an actuary to women’s stem organizations or just organizations in general. This helps to increase awareness of the profession and lets women see people like themselves in the profession.
Q: Why do you think that this association came together at the time that it did?
A: There were a couple of factors that came together at the same time, and both really centered around a need in the community. First, it was being requested. Members of the actuarial community were asking if there was an actuarial women’s organization they could join. They were looking for mentorship and community and it didn’t exist in a more formal way at the time.
Second, just thinking through the representation of women in the profession, both in general and then also in leadership positions. From the 80’s to around the 2010’s we saw some steady growth in the percentage of female actuaries. It rose from 20% to a little over 30%. But for the past decade things stayed pretty flat. That stagnation really pointed to a need to be intentional about how we think about empowering women and making the profession as inclusive as it can be.
The final piece was the three co-founders, Adrienne Lieberthal, Sandy Lowe, and Amber Rohde came together and devoted their time and energy to creating the network and they’ve continued to adjust and grow in response to the community.
Q: Can you tell us about NAWA’s mission overall?
A: NAWA’s mission is to connect and empower women of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and life circumstances to be successful in the actuarial profession. We have a commitment to intersectional women’s issues as well. We also recognize the important role of allies and the success of our mission. In NAWA, the network of actuarial women and allies, we included allies in our name because it was so important that allies be present, feel welcome, and be an active part of the conversation because it’s what’s necessary to affect change. We have an ally that serves on our board as well and some involved in our committees, which has been really impactful.
We accomplish our mission through our three foundational principles:
One, increasing equity and representation of women in the actuarial profession in all aspects: at entry levels, in leadership positions, as thought leaders, across professional organizations.
Two, creating a sense of community amongst the women across all the different sectors, specialties, and walks of life.
Third, providing opportunities for personal and professional development tailored towards women and allies.
Q: So as a board member, what are your main takeaways that you’re hoping the actuarial community learns from NAWA?
A: NAWA, along with the other actuarial diversity networks, really instills in the community the importance of an inclusive workplace, a diverse workforce and an allyship. For NAWA specifically, I would like the actuarial community to have an appreciation for how women’s experiences in the profession may differ from their male colleagues. I want NAWA to play an integral role in providing information on some of the barriers women may face as well as actionable steps and best practices for the industry to address them.
Q: Have you seen any positive effects already with NAWA for the industry?
A: I continue to be inspired by the enthusiastic support of NAWA from the industry. I mentioned the Corporate Action Council earlier, the commitment and support we’ve received from our sponsors on that has been amazing. Just by coming together to tackle these topics we can build off each other and create those synergies where the industry and NAWA are building and amplifying initiatives leading to a greater impact on women in the profession. I think having these conversations directly and being in alignment with our partners and sponsors on supporting and empowering women in the profession, that’s an important step. You can’t change what you don’t directly acknowledge.
Addressing the stagnation of women’s representation in the profession requires everyone, women, allies, and the companies they work for. I’ve been really pleased with everyone’s willingness to hop in and start working on that.
All that being said, I want to acknowledge that we’ve made a lot of progress and started developing action steps but recognize that we still have a good bit of work to do. I’m excited and looking forward to building what we’ve started with NAWA’s committees and the Corporate Action Council.
Q: How have you seen NAWA evolve since you’ve joined?
A: I joined early on when NAWA was obviously much smaller. The focus then was to build awareness of our organization and create meaningful offerings to the community and our members. In a sense, we were reactive early on. We looked to take advantage of every opportunity to increase awareness of us within the industry. The board was heavily involved in the creation of the committee, setting them up, even driving some of the projects and initiatives.
It was beneficial in that we were able to accomplish a lot in our first year. We had a successful kickoff event with nearly 250 attendees, spanning across 20 countries, 33 states in the US and 60 companies. During that first year and a half, we also sponsored seven events, published five articles, launched a book club, piloted a mentoring program, ran a successful founding sponsor drive, and had our first annual meeting. We then posted a lot of actuarial job openings from our sponsors on our website as well.
Since all that, and through all that, we grew. We now have over 800 members and over 2,000 followers on LinkedIn. So, it made sense to take a step back at that point and start to evaluate and update our long-term goals. To that end, the board did spend time this past February thinking through our strategic vision for NAWA. We had a two-day meeting during which we developed what I would call a more proactive approach.
Being reactive, having that very hands on board, served us well in the first year but we want to provide leadership opportunities for our members in the coming years and be thoughtful about where energy is spent. So, we decided to realign our committees and created annual 5-year and 10-year goals. I’m really excited about the updated vision for NAWA and the opportunities it’s going to bring to our members and our volunteers.
Q: So more on a personal note, what have been some of your favorite memories since you’ve joined or even a story you can think of or something that you want to share?
A: I would have to say my favorite memories with NAWA are really about the people I’ve met through the organization. The community is very supportive, we lift up and celebrate each other. I’ve had the privilege to work with incredible women from sectors, countries, companies, that I would never have otherwise had the occasion to meet. The sense of camaraderie and community is something I cherish.
I’ve also been impressed with the stellar support from our allies who volunteer their time and knowledge to support women in the profession. I’ve also enjoyed watching women who volunteer grow as a part of the community and impact the profession in ways they didn’t think was possible. For instance, leading discussions at industry conferences or creating programs for our members such as mentorship and then watching the members of the different committees grow to now lead them. The different development opportunities NAWA offers and the people I’ve gotten to meet I think is the really meaningful piece of it for me.
Q: What are your current offerings? And how can people look to get involved with NAWA if they aren’t right now?
A: We currently offer networking opportunities and development sessions. We’ve had sessions around things like how to negotiate as a woman, updating your resume, interviewing, allyship, the importance of mentorship.
There’s a lot of different ways you can volunteer. I would suggest going to www.nawaactuaries.org, there’s a “get involved” drop down at the top. Then you can select volunteer and fill out the volunteer survey and we’ll get back to you. We have committees for planning events, running the Corporate Action Council, working with our partners, working on our newsletter, and many others. We ask questions to get at what you’d be most interested in and match you with the volunteer opportunities. Membership is free and it’s open to all genders and to people whether they’re credentialed or not.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: I want to thank you both and D.W. Simpson in general for their support of NAWA and their commitment to moving the needle forward for women. I’m excited about the blog and looking forward to our partnership in the years to come!
Article written by Marilyn Simpson; transcribed & edited by Cynthia Perez.
Be sure to keep your eye out for our next Share your Story series topic where we continue to explore the topic of DEI, featuring some very special guests!
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