Most professions have at some point dealt with the issues of gender bias and equality, and actuaries are not unique in this regard. In the January/February 2014 issue of Actuarial Review, I reviewed Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. In Lean In, Ms. Sandberg examines her experiences as a woman in the top tier of corporate America. She then offers her advice for women, in any stage of their career, for successfully navigating gender bias in the workplace.
There are obvious parallels between my own experiences and those of Ms. Sandberg, and her advice can be applied to women (and men) in the actuarial profession. Surprisingly, I shared much of her vision for women, and in turn, her disappointment of the status quo. Women need to continually assess both internal and external factors that may be affecting their career: by leaning in, navigating a “jungle gym” instead of a ladder, finding quality mentors, and making their partner a true equal partner. The most important lesson Ms. Sandberg offers is that decisions made and paths explored should ultimately be guided by personal preference and individual situations.
In the actuarial profession, have you experienced any cases or example of gender bias in the workplace? How did you deal with the bias, either as the recipient or observer? We encourage you to share your views on gender bias and Lean In in the comments below. My full review is available here: https://bit.ly/1aAUNBw
I’m sorry, but having women actuaries “lean in” isn’t going to make much difference when consultants are taking my chief actuary out to strip clubs. The problem is not that women need to better prove themselves. It’s that the men are sexist.
One of the attractions of the actuarial profession, for me, was the fact that advancement was gender-blind. If you knew the material, you passed the exam. And exam progress meant professional advancement (at least in the early stages of my career). There does come a time, however, when “soft” skills become much more relevant to career progress. What was particularly of interest to me is that Sandberg argues that men also deserve choices in their lives. This was very much reinforced in my life: my husband was a much better primary care-giver than I would have ever been, but it took courage for him to “lean in” to that role. In the end, our family was better off having made the choices that he and I did.