Only one black female graduated with an honours degree in actuarial science last year from the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science last year.
Female representation in Actuarial Science
The issue of black female representation in actuarial science has been an issue in past years, said Moses Mkhize, Wits coordinator of the SA Actuaries Development Programme (SAADP).
“The issue with this problem is that it reinforces the stigma that actuarial science is for males,” said Mkhize.
Kelebogile Setlatjile was the lone black female graduate in her honours programme last year. She could not be reached for comment by Wits Vuvuzela.
Director of Actuarial Studies Prof Stephan Jurisich defended the honours programme’s diversity, saying the graduation demographics changed from year to year.
“You cannot use last year’s class as being representative of Wits,” he said.
The current actuarial science honours class has 42 students with 12 of them black females, eight of those women are Indian and only four are African. Eight of the female students are white. There are no coloured women studying actuarial science in the honours programme this year.[pullquote]“The issue with this problem is that it reinforces the stigma that actuarial science is for males,”[/pullquote]
Jurisich said the Actuarial Science Honours course was demanding and passing required navigating difficult academic requirements.
South African Actuaries Development Programme
However, Jurisich confirmed that managing diversity in the actuarial science programme had been difficult and had been helped with the intervention of SAADP.
The SAADP was established to create awareness and understanding of actuarial skills, particularly for students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
SAADP chief executive Nowkanda Mkhize said the entrance requirements into actuarial science were high and “the students need to be strong mathematically.”
S’onqonba Maseko, who graduated from the Wits Actuarial Science Honours programme in 2009, said she had never felt disenfranchised by her race or gender but said there were too few black females studying actuarial science.
“Actuarial science is not a career option that a lot of young black girls know about when growing up. This is related to the past of South Africa and the limited opportunities that existed for black girls,” Maseko said.
“There is some catching up to be done through letting more black girls know about the career and give them the support to discover their own potential.”
According to an article published in Business Day last year, the profession of actuarial science has made strides in improving its diversity. Over the last 15 years, the number of black actuarial fellows grew from 2.2% to 16%, whereas the number of female fellows increased from 6% to 20%.