An Asian American Heritage Month Message from SANA, South Asian Network of Actuaries
Authored by: Neel Patel, ACAS, Actuary at Liberty Mutual Insurance
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, during which we celebrate the rich history and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Accordingly, we at SANA also feel strongly about the month of May to recognize, celebrate and encourage the active participation and inclusion of South Asian and South Asian descent actuaries in our industry (allies are always welcome).
As a CAS member and SANA Workstream Co-Chair, I would like to share some of my own experiences in this column in hopes of inspiring others to celebrate their unique heritage and bring it to their workplace and the CAS community. Whether that manifests as active membership in one of the actuarial DE&I organizations like SANA, or just a commitment to bringing your authentic self forward is ultimately up to you!
Historically, the Asian continent has been the birthplace of many mathematical discoveries, such as the development of the modern-day numeral system in India. I strongly feel that the Asian and South Asian community is not “done” making valuable mathematical contributions. We have just begun to explore our potential in the actuarial field and the fact that SANA was launched barely a year ago is testament to that. As a communications Co-chair at SANA, my goal is to grow our social presence and collaborate with our allies like the CAS to further our goals.
Not to generalize the (South) Asian American experience, but many people struggle with career expectations based on an older formula for success (historically becoming a doctor, engineer, software programmer etc.). Part of the actuarial field’s struggle is attracting diverse talent, which largely stems from lack of awareness in many immigrant communities. Many people do not know that being an actuary can and does result in excellent quality of life (exams can be tough though).
While being good at math is well respected in the Asian community, translating that into a career outside of academics is hard (i.e., do you want to major in theoretical math?) and not always well facilitated by all universities. I was fortunate enough to have attended the University of Michigan and benefited from its well-established actuarial program, but that is not always the case for other aspiring actuaries. By partnering with organizations like SANA, the CAS and SOA are working on strategic outreach to high school and college students to curb this issue. If you know of someone needing guidance, check out our SANA mentorship program on LinkedIn!
I think that seeing someone like yourself working as an actuary or in a senior leadership role can inspire you to become that and more. For example, my actuarial program director at the University of Michigan, Roger Natarajan, was also of South Asian descent. Additionally, I had cousins working in the actuarial field who were able to provide practical support and make the field seem less confusing. For my part I try to accept and respond to LinkedIn requests from college students looking for advice and I hope CAS members reading this will pay it forward as well.
I passionately believe that many of the DE&I challenges our industry faces are opportunities being realized. Everyday, I am seeing change happening and I’m looking forward to more CAS literature written by and featuring under-represented perspectives, unique lines of business, diverse geographies and much more in the future.
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