Black History Month is an annual commemoration of Black culture, history, and achievement.
As an organization that champions the diversity and inclusion of its membership, we delight in the opportunity to celebrate the unique and valuable contributions of Canada’s Black actuaries. Simultaneously, this also means recognizing the areas where, as a profession, we still need to grow.
The journey to Fellowship is never easy, and for Black actuaries, it can be further nuanced by discrimination and a lack of awareness about the profession among other material barriers to entry.
Gloria Asare, ACIA, FCAS, and International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) leader, in sharing her experience, highlights the significance of acknowledging Black History Month and working towards a more equitable profession that we can all be proud of.
As an Associate of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), what significance do your designations hold for you?
Beyond the credentials themselves and the expanded work-related opportunities that come with them, it’s been an earnest journey of personal growth to get to this point. The process of overcoming multiple failures; staying dedicated to your goals despite things not going your way; and having various unanticipated life circumstances occur while persevering through it all encourages real character building. Additionally, with less than 2% of all fully credentialed actuaries across North America being Black, it is very rewarding to have accomplished this milestone and to therefore now be better able to inspire others as they pursue this, or other, professions.
You achieved your Fellowship with the CAS just this month. What was a memorable highlight from the journey?
My final attempt at Exam 8, most definitely. At the time I was on maternity leave with my young infant and I lived two hours away from the nearest testing center. My little one was still being nursed exclusively and didn’t like the bottle. So, for me to take the exam, my husband – who is a university professor – had to adjust his classes and drive the family down to the city the night before. On the exam day itself, I got up extra early to feed my daughter then had to leave for five hours to take the exam. As soon as the exam was done, I had to rush right back to feed her again. It’s not easy being someone’s sole source of nutrition; what a relief to have passed that sitting!
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It is a time when I reflect on many things. I think of the struggles that the Black community has faced over the centuries and continues to face today. As an immigrant, I think of this regarding the different Black communities across the world. I am so grateful for those who came before me and paved the way such that it is even possible for me to become a Fellow today. While I see the hope and inspiration this progress has created for some, it can still be overwhelming thinking of all the work that still needs to be done.
Why is it significant for companies to acknowledge Black History Month?
Because the challenges faced by the Black community are real. Our colleagues, our clients, and the residents in the areas we operate are all touched by it in some way. Thus, it is not a viable option to pretend the struggles do not exist. With minimal effort, each person in each office can make a difference. That includes asking more questions, doing more self-research, and showing support for DE&I initiatives, for example, joining a local employee resource group and/or partaking in Black History Month. Overall, colleagues should seek to learn more, rather than avoid the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
How is the IABA vital in the creation of a more diverse and inclusive workplace?
As an organization dedicated to increasing the number of successful Black actuaries, the IABA continues to spread awareness of the significant barriers to entry that many aspiring and/or seasoned Black actuaries face in this profession where exams are deemed to be ‘the great equalizer’ among all. The IABA also provides a safe space for colleagues to come together, be vulnerable, learn from each other, and support each other on their day-to-day challenges. For more information, please visit our website at www.blackactuaries.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.