After the murder of George Floyd, the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) hosted a listening session for Black actuaries, and I listened. I listened to stories that sounded like they belonged to another age and time. I listened to stories so subtle that, if you chose to, you could ignore the subtext. Not long after, a viral video emerged showing an actuary calling the police and falsely reporting that an African American man was threatening her in Central Park. I imagined a scenario where that actuary went back to work. She may have been asked to make decisions that affected the hiring or firing or development of people on her staff. I thought about how she was overt in her actions that day in the park and may have been covert in her actions in the workplace.
I wanted to help make the connection between systemic inequities that often manifest across racial lines and the impact of implicit biases at work. I worked with the IABA and an illustrator, Jason Deeble, to create “A Tale of Two Actuaries,” a comic strip based on the Barriers to Entry study jointly commissioned by the IABA, the Society of Actuaries, the Casualty Actuarial Society and The Actuarial Foundation. The comic strip translates the study’s results into something that could resonate with actuaries — something that would allow actuaries to see themselves in the characters and something that could be impactful and actionable.
It is well documented that African Americans and other people of color are disproportionately impacted by social disparities and systemic barriers; the comic shows how this plays out at many points in the actuarial career path. After seeing the comic, a fellow actuary said, “John’s path mirrors mine so much (almost perfectly). I also see myself in John’s manager . . . I plan to challenge myself and our team to find ways to act differently. I have shared with friends and family as well since I believe this illustration provides great insight beyond actuaries.”
Regardless of your racial identity, you may look at this comic and recognize your own story in John’s or Jamal’s or both. Others may look at this comic and think it interesting but that it doesn’t affect them. I challenge everyone to dig deeper to understand how we bring to light societal inequities in our actuarial workplaces and how we use our power to address them.
Jamala Arland, FSA, MAAA, CFA, is vice president and actuary for Long-Term Care Inforce Management at Genworth in Richmond, Virginia. To see the full comic, visit the IABA website.