October 31, 2022

Encouraging Diversity of Thought: In Conversation with Gaia Corbetta

Insights International

In conversation with Gaia Corbetta, Senior Actuarial Analyst, we discuss the diversity challenge in the actuarial profession, Arch’s role in the Actuarial Mentoring Programme, Gaia’s involvement in the Arch Women & Allies network, and the passion for righting wrongs that has been with her since her youth.

This is the third year that Arch has been involved in the Actuarial Mentoring Programme, a global cross-company mentoring initiative. What was the inspiration for getting involved?

As an actuarial professional, there are fewer organic opportunities to network with your peers in the market than if you are an underwriter or broker, especially if you’re new to the profession, so it’s important to proactively start building up a network. Also, having a mentor has proven to be beneficial to people’s career journeys. The Actuarial Mentoring Programme combines these two aspects and provides the participants with networking opportunities and the tools to help better achieve their professional goals, with the overall aim of retaining talent and encouraging diversity of thought.  

How significant is the gender diversity challenge within the actuarial community in your view?

Due to the technical and mathematical skills required for an actuarial profession, it’s often a requirement to have a university degree with a scientific or economic focus, even for entry level roles. This inevitably restricts the pool of candidates – especially as, historically, scientific subjects have had a greater intake of male students. While studies have shown there are now more women choosing scientific studies, there is still an ongoing issue of retaining female actuaries, particularly as they progress throughout their career.  

Can you provide some insight into how the programme works?

Launched in 2017, the aim of The Actuarial Mentoring Programme – delivered by the organisation Moving Ahead – is to help retain female actuaries within the profession through ongoing career advice and development, and to address diversity more widely, including opening it up to more people from minority backgrounds.  

Mentees and mentors are matched across companies and participate in a number of events over a nine-month period. The mentors are usually more senior actuaries, and the company sponsors are typically chief actuaries or senior company executives. We’re pleased to have our Chief Actuary, Steven Loyens, as a sponsor of the programme.  

You have been a programme partner in the initiative since 2020. How did this come about and what does the role entail?

Meeting and engaging with peers across the market was one of the main reasons I wanted to take on this role. The programme partner is the first point of contact for participants. In the role I help to connect mentees and mentors and ensure the participants are engaged throughout the programme, have a safe space to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and share their experiences.  

“We’re proud of the progress we have made in raising awareness, changing perspectives and more importantly, helping people feel that they are heard and have a safe space where they can be authentic and express their feelings.”

gaia corbetta, senior actuarial analyst

You’re also UK Co-Chair of Arch’s Women & Allies Network. What inspired you to take on this role?

When I was younger, I wanted to become a lawyer to try and help right the wrongs of the world, having witnessed discrimination growing up in a small town in Italy. While I didn’t grow up to become a lawyer, this interest in wanting to help create equal opportunity for all stayed with me. When I entered the professional world in the UK, I saw that issues of diversity and inclusion were still present, although in a more subtle way than what I experienced in Italy, so I started to inform myself more and speak up about these topics.  

When Arch created the employee network groups in early 2021 and was looking for co-chairs, I saw it as a great opportunity to help make a difference and also to learn more about DE&I. 

What has the Arch Women & Allies Network achieved to date?

The mission of the network is to help drive the career advancement of women at Arch through initiatives such as networking, mentoring, and ally engagement. We currently have a global network of nearly 600 members and hold monthly virtual workshops as well as in-person events which have a more local focus. We’re proud of the progress we have made so far in raising awareness, changing perspectives and more importantly, helping people feel that they are heard and have a safe space where they can be authentic and express their feelings. 

What would you say to women considering a career in the insurance industry, and specifically within the actuarial community?

I would certainly recommend an actuarial career in the insurance industry. While there is still work to do, the industry is making positive change regarding DE&I and I feel that being part of the change is extremely important. For those considering joining the actuarial community, I would reiterate the importance of building a network. I’ve been lucky to have people on my team who have supported me a lot during my career.  

Are there any standout moments in your career that were pivotal to you getting to where you are today?

I have my university professor to thank for making me aware of the actuarial profession. He mentioned that the course he was teaching gave you exemptions for the first actuarial exam (and I’m sure anyone who has done the exams will agree how valuable having some exemptions are!), however I had no idea what the actuarial profession was at that time. If it wasn’t for him mentioning it, I’m not sure if I would have found out about this career otherwise – as an industry we need to talk about and promote the actuarial career more!  

More than anything, it’s the people that have been pivotal to getting me where I am today. My managers and my team have always been very supportive of me in this DE&I journey, and encouraged me to pursue what I believe in.