The Sexuality and Gender Alliance of Actuaries: How it Began and Hopes for the Future
When I heard that a new organization called the Sexuality and Gender Alliance of Actuaries (SAGAA) had been formed, I was thrilled. As a bisexual woman who didn’t feel comfortable being “out” at work, this felt like the actuarial organization I didn’t know I needed. I’m now out and on the board of SAGAA, and I hope that the organization can make all actuaries who identify as LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, plus others) feel comfortable being who they are. I spoke with Jake Akstins and Matt Gentile, the co-founders, about how SAGAA came to be and what they hope it can become.
Akstins and Gentile didn’t set out to create an actuarial organization. Presentations and trainings on LGBTQIA+ issues were done at their workplace, but they wondered why those types of trainings weren’t being given on a broader scale throughout the actuarial profession. They reached out to a person on the planning committee for the 2020 Spring Meeting about doing a presentation there and received a ton of support for the idea. Akstins and Gentile ran a concurrent session called “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Identities & Allyship in Actuarial Workplaces.”
As it turned out, Akstins and Gentile weren’t the only ones who felt that LGBTQIA+ issues should be discussed more in actuarial spaces. They received many requests to run the session for other groups, and they even ran another CAS session after the Spring Meeting so anyone could participate. This discussion was clearly filling a need, and the conversation was just getting started. After meeting with the CAS/SOA Joint Committee for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity (JCIED), Akstins and Gentile knew they had support to form an organization focused on supporting LGBTQIA+ issues within the profession.
The CAS announced SAGAA’s formation to kick off Pride Month in June 2020. The first meeting was virtual and open to anyone. Since then, Akstins and Gentile have been working to build up SAGAA by bringing on Arius Johnson, Erin Campbell and me as part of the executive board; meeting with other organizations like the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) and Organization of Latino Actuaries (OLA) to learn how they got started; and speaking at CAS and SOA events to introduce SAGAA. What started as a question of, “Why aren’t we talking about this?” has developed into an organization of actuaries working to advocate for LGBTQIA+ individuals within the profession.
This group wouldn’t need to exist if there weren’t circumstances that needed to be changed. They’ve received no negative feedback nor faced any repercussions from their work. Both Akstins and Gentile said that, but if there were negative consequences, they’d probably be invisible to them. These “invisible” consequences might be familiar to actuaries who don’t feel wholly accepted within the actuarial community. Sometimes it’s losing opportunities — even ones that you may not have even known about — because of someone else’s unconscious (or conscious) bias. Sometimes it’s losing out on mentorship or networking connections because a person doesn’t feel that they can really “connect” with you. It’s hard not to wonder when you go for a job opening, promotion or spot on a project and it doesn’t go your way, just how much does someone else’s bias factor into that decision? Is it because you were not good enough or would you have achieved your goal if you had a different identity? We hope that, in time, no actuary will have to ask these questions; SAGAA is working to get us there.
SAGAA facilitates connections between LGBTQIA+ actuaries and allies to engage in community-wide dialogue about LGBTQIA+ issues. SAGAA aims to create a safe space for dialogue, community and career encouragement, while educating the broader actuarial profession. To build toward its purpose, SAGAA has three pillars: networking, professional development and company education. This framework will focus and support SAGAA’s initiatives to move the profession forward.
Akstins and Gentile hope that SAGAA can help normalize the idea that LGBTQIA+ actuaries can be leaders within the profession, in addtion to being leaders in conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion. They hope to normalize the experience of coming out at work, of being out at work or not being out at work. They also hope to educate actuaries on how they can best be allies. It can be hard to talk about LGBTQIA+ issues if someone is not sure exactly what to say or afraid of saying the wrong thing. Akstins and Gentile hope to help teach people how to navigate those conversations and how to handle situations where perhaps someone does say the wrong thing but wants to make it right.
It will take all of us to ensure that LGBTQIA+ actuaries feel accepted and valued within the profession. If you support LGBTQIA+ actuaries, or if you yourself identify as LGBTQIA+, SAGAA is for you! The next SAGAA meeting is on December 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST (connection details can be found on social media).
Get involved by filling out this interest form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/33G7Q7F. Find SAGAA on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sagaa-actuaries/; and on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/sagaactuaries/.