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  #1  
Old 12-25-2019, 07:59 AM
4REAL 4REAL is offline
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Default Systemic Discrimination

It seems to me systemic discrimination persists among those people in the actuarial profession that decide who obtain opportunities.

I went to one of the better state universities in the country. Between my exam success, gpa, and technical skills, I can comfortably say I was among the top 3 students that was pursuing actuarial exams at my university. For clarity, there was an actuarial major and actuarial courses but I decided against the very narrow major while taking most of the courses. The other top students (along with not so top students) easily received interview opportunities and obtained positions with less exams, lower gpas, and less technical skills.

The only company that allowed me to interview with them was a small, cash-strapped life insurer. A large P&C insurer also allowed me to speak to them by phone, but the conversation went downhill when the interviewer refused to believe the exam process had changed since the days when he was a student and when I asked about pay relative to rent in the DC metro.

I ended up taking the job at the small life insurer, as the chief actuary said they would provide 30 hours of study time per hour of exam and that their students passed an exam every two sittings. It turned out that they would literally have me work until AM hours of the next day and have me make up the study time I took. As for their other students; they hadn't passed an exam since they started working at the company. Also, the Chief Actuary would throw racial/religious jabs at me every now and then. Eventually, I was fired because I confronted them about the ridiculous hours and exaggerated/made-up study time.

Anyways, since those experiences about 5 years ago, I have applied to no less than one hundred actuarial positions with no luck. No one seems to want to even interview ethnic minorities. For reference, I am "white" by definition, despite not having European ancestry and a first and last name that are clearly not what anyone in America would call "white".

I do not know how to proceed. The SOA has uploaded videos of minorities who could not take the typical path and had to do something unique. If that is the case, why should a minority join the profession to expand the profession despite being essentially locked out by the profession?

I am a refugee who had to live in a basement with a large number of siblings when we got to America. I continued to live in dangerous subsidized housing environments, and had to attend less than ideal schools, until I attended college. I can say without a doubt that I've overcome significantly more obstacles than the typical white actuary. It is disappointing to know I did everything correctly based on merit despite so many disadvantages, but because of my ethnic background, it doesn't seem to matter.

Last edited by 4REAL; 12-25-2019 at 06:00 PM..
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  #2  
Old 12-25-2019, 08:32 AM
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You're probably having trouble finding a job because you're unemployed and/or not currently in an actuarial position. This would be a barrier to people of any race or ethnicity.

I can't speak to your resume or interview skills back when you were in college. It may have been your name, but it may also have been a typo or poorly formatted resume, or lack of internship experience compared to others.

But racial and religious jabs at work isn't acceptable. And your first company sounds awful.
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Old 12-25-2019, 09:38 AM
4REAL 4REAL is offline
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I had my resume formatted and reviewed by someone working at the university for these particular tasks. At least some of the other students that I was using for comparison of outcome did the same. I passed two actuarial exams a month apart from one another before the last semester of my junior year (the semester you apply for internships) and would not get any interviews. The semester prior to that, I had two jobs while attending college full-time. Interview skills don't come into play before the interview, but trust me when I say I've probably had more interview experience than the typical white actuary who didn't have to work growing up.

For context, my gpa was a 3.9, I passed another exam about 5 months after the 2nd, and I held at least one job throughout college until my last semester. I currently work in a call center for an insurer, who is trying to provide diverse groups of people employment, but frankly that diversity is much more visible in the lowest paying positions. With that said, at least they are trying to do something.

Anyhow, thank you for your reply. You are right about my 1st company, but your response is more of an attempt to justify what is the case rather than to understand why there is a problem. We technical people often have this problem so I certainly have to cut you some slack as I've been guilty of doing the same in the past.

Be conscious that you have a bias as the system, as it is, has worked in your favor.

Last edited by 4REAL; 12-25-2019 at 09:53 AM..
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Old 12-25-2019, 09:59 AM
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I work with lots of ethnic minorities, and have at other actuarial jobs, too. While I'm sure there is discrimination, I honestly think this field is more welcoming of minorites than most due to the importance of race-blind exams. I've had co-workers from Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Eastern Europe, southern Europe, Mexico, and Canada.

But it's very hard to get interviews if you've been unemployed for a while. I agree with everything lllj said.

Also, if you are a US citizen or have a green card, make sure potential employers know that. If you have a foreign-sounding name they might guess otherwise. And there's lots of discrimination against people who need visa support.
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Old 12-25-2019, 10:10 AM
4REAL 4REAL is offline
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Thank you for the input. It never occurred to me that I should include that I'm a US citizen since I've been in America for the past 2 decades and grew up here, speaking English better than my mother tongue. (In case the previous sentence sounds sarcastic, I promise it's not so don't take offense).

As far as the other minorities you are speaking about, they check a different box (unless they are obviously white because they are from Europe), which I assume the government requires by law to defend those groups. I am Muslim and Middle Eastern, as is my name. However, I have to check the "white" box according to the definition of white provided. I don't get any government protection like other minorities do in this regard (which, by the way, they absolutely deserve).

Last edited by 4REAL; 12-25-2019 at 10:14 AM.. Reason: Potential misinterpretation of rhetoric
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Old 12-25-2019, 10:39 AM
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I always thought the US racial categories were pretty dumb. I pick Asian even though Asia is gigantic.
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Old 12-25-2019, 10:44 AM
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I was once pressured to fire a direct report of mine who was a minority. The language used wasn't overt 1960s style racism, but my boss was using language, like your employee is awfully outspoken and has no filter or we're not sure if we can put them in front of a client, hoping that I'd get the hint or something.

Anyways, I refused, but I'm sorry I can't say there was a happy ending. Both me and my former report work elsewhere. You have to draw the line somewhere.
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Old 12-25-2019, 11:06 AM
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1. I think you should ask yourself if this is still your dream profession. There's a lot of good fields out there an actuarial is just one of them. If you go down this path, you still have years of struggling to do before you'll establish yourself.

If you decide to keep going:

2. Keep passing exams. I'm not sure how many exams you have, but keep taking them and don't stop. Eventually you'll have so many that people will start wondering why nobody has hired you yet. Not everyone will view that positively, but it's better than having stopped taking them because that will give people the impression that you gave up.

3. Find a related job in insurance or a technical job elsewhere. An insurance call center job is better than nothing but I think a lot of things are better than working in a call center. There's underwriting, finance, claims, IT, etc. etc. Try getting a job as a financial analyst, data scientist, etc.

4. Keep learning. For whatever profession you choose, find out what skills are necessary to succeed and keep learning them. Use coursera, textbooks, stack overflow, tutorials, Google, the library, etc. etc. etc. and don't stop.

5. Meet people. Having sent out so many applications without success is an indication that you don't really know very many people in the profession. It's time for you to start messaging as many actuaries as you can on LinkedIn or the directory to try to get back into the field. If you're brave enough to stand up to your boss, you're brave enough to get ignored every now and then by sending out cold emails.

6. Refine your attitude. Victim blaming is common, and people are always going be questioning whether you really did get discriminated against or if it was just you. Stay positive, but also look in the mirror to see if there are any flaws of your own that you need to fix.
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  #9  
Old 12-25-2019, 11:13 AM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is offline
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You don't have to check a box.
This is America.

Also, next time you confront someone about slights, do it behind closed doors.
Also, next time someone promises you something, get it in writing. Employers are not your friends.
Also, keep looking. I suggest searching for popular racial/religious names of your kind in the SOA directory. I don't know if it will help, but it couldn't hurt. They might not have hiring ability, but they might know someone who does.

Also, Merrrrrrry Christmas!!!
(Oh, crap, that's inappropriate.)
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  #10  
Old 12-25-2019, 11:28 AM
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I agree that it's possible that people assume you need visa sponsorship and there absolutely is discrimination against foreigners.

I don't work with anyone of Middle Eastern dissent - there very well could be discrimination playing into that.

I think it's likely that there's an unfair assumption that English isn't your first language or that you need sponsorship, probably more so than blatant racism, but that may be an idealistic or optimistic view of society - I'm not sure.

I don't see a lot of black actuaries though, and that's not due to assuming those candidates need sponsorship. Maybe there just aren't as many black applicants but it wouldn't shock me either if there was implicit or explicit racism contributing. Among younger hires, the insurance field seems more diverse though; I've seen big companies making targeted efforts for their development program hires to come from a diverse background.
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