LADS Culture – women actuaries doing it for themselves

woman actuary riding a growth arrow cartoon

The honour of being the first female actuary is usually ascribed to Lucy Jane Wright, who was made actuary of Union Mutual Life in Boston on 2 May 1866. 

But women were only admitted to the Institute in 1919. So, the first woman to qualify through the Institute was Dorothy Davis, who qualified as FIA in 1923. The first female to qualify in the Faculty was Jessie Ruthven Carmichael in 1933.

By the early 1950s, there were nine female Fellows of the Institute of Actuaries and they decided to set up, the Lady Actuaries Dining Society, which, ironically, became known as LADS. They also set up a series of tea parties for women students and qualified actuaries.

They had two primary goals. The first was to provide an opportunity for women actuaries and students to get together and exchange views to combat any loneliness a woman professional might feel when working in what was a very male-dominated environment. The founders acknowledged that attendance at sessional meetings or SIAS meetings might be uncomfortable if a woman didn’t know anyone.

The second aim was to not be something – to not be a women’s section of the profession.  It was very important that they were part of the profession and equal to any other actuary. This principle led to events being held on evenings when no full profession events were being held.

The founders also took opportunities to build relationships with women actuaries in other countries, which led to countries like Germany, Switzerland and Australia, having similar events.

Unfortunately, the LADS was wound up in November 2011, with a final reception at Staple Inn. The theme was a celebration of the life of Ada Byron, the first computer programmer. 

Although the profession has changed to include a much higher proportion of women over the last 60 years, the equality cause could always do with a little push…LADS 2.0 in 2021?

What do you say?

Pamela Hellig