Putting spotlight on women in science

Cara Geduld, Shivani Ranchod, Ciara Madella.

An initiative has been started at UCT to get more women studying actuarial science.

Femmeact is run by students Ciara Madella and Cara Geduld and former head of the actuarial science department Shivani Ranchod.

It has links with the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA), the Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals (ASABA), and the Actuarial Women’s Committees (AWCs).

Ms Ranchod said Femmeact would support women students, tackle topics that were not spoken about, explain the purpose of actuarial science, and give students role models.

More women were entering the field, but it was still a long way from a 50/50 representation, she said.

They have held various virtual events during lockdown including webinars on Zoom.

“We hope to shed some light on the incredible women that occupy the actuarial science space and provide students across South Africa with sources of inspiration and motivation,” she said.

Ciara said actuarial science, as with many other STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) professions, was male-dominated.

“Until my final year, I had not been exposed to one coloured women actuary. While this did motivate me at times (I love disproving stereotypes), there were instances where I felt like I was constantly assimilating and I had nobody to relate to.

The men in my class never had this issue – they had a selection of lecturers and guest lecturers to look to for advice and inspiration.”

Ciara said actuarial science ticked several boxes for her, drawing on mathematical ability, with commercial applications and the opportunity to work in a team.

“While gender parity is less severe in universities than in the workplace, it goes without saying that removing these disparities will be a gradual

process,” she said.

“Often the onus is placed on women to correct gender qualities seen in any field. Women are taught to be more empowered or how to assert themselves in the boardroom.

However, the road to 50/50 may be a lot quicker if men employ allyship – the concept of men using their privilege to the advantage of women in the pursuit of gender equality.”

Cara said they hoped the initiative exposed actuarial science students to incredible women in the field.

“At Femmeact, we strive to keep the group of speakers as diverse as possible to alleviate the under-representation many women students feel. Actuarial science equips you with so many skills. You become more resilient, a greater problem solver and equipped with finance, economics, mathematics, statistics and actuarial knowledge. There are so many fields you could go into after obtaining a degree in actuarial science,” she said.