To recognize the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we chatted with our Director of Actuarial Services, Annie Petrides, about how she initially found her interest in mathematics and science, her career path, what keeps her interested in her field, and how being a woman in her field has affected her life. For those unfamiliar with Actuarial Science, an Actuary is a position that uses math and statistics in order to estimate the financial impact of uncertainty to help clients minimize risk. 

Growing up in a family of engineers, have you always been interested in math and science?  

“I went to an all-girls high school which now, looking back was extremely important in my formative years. It was very foundational for the encouragement and the challenges, which were extremely rigorous, harder than college I would even say. Attending school there allowed me to feel confident and build up that aptitude in science because the school itself was very focused on the rigor around some of the more advanced math subjects.” 

How did having such an intensive high school experience prepare you for college? 

“By the time I entered college, I found that I was mature enough to have already built-up foundational confidence in my abilities to not be as easily swayed. The real challenge was going from a small college in the Northeast to UC Berkeley for grad school. But I knew when I arrived that I was ready to embrace the differences and appreciate all of the interesting experiences.” 

Speaking of UC Berkeley, you have a Master's degree in Statistics. Can you talk a bit about what drew you to that field of mathematics? 

“Statistics is a very different field now than it was when I was in Grad school. Computing power changes what you can do. Berkeley then was a classical statistics program. But what I was really interested in was the application of those numbers into the social sciences. That’s why I always joke that I was about 10 or 15 years too early to what I was aiming for because if I had hit it better, I probably would have had a career much more centered on data science and the application of statistics to and how they apply to economics, sociology, and even epidemiology.” 

Who or what ultimately inspired you to pursue an actuarial career? 

“When I think about one of my most important mentor experiences, it would have to be my first summer internship in an actuarial consulting organization. I hadn’t quite made my mind up on actuarial work and I absolutely fell in love with what I was doing. My boss there really was very supportive, showing the fun in the discipline and especially the value one person can bring to an organization. Working there, I made up my mind.” 

Can you tell us a bit about the path you took once you decided to become an Actuary? 

“To become an Actuary, it takes about 8-10 years to finish the program. So, you must have the fortitude to study, dig into the work and get through the exam and certification processes. You learn so much, but you do have to work hard in order to come out on the other side.” 

Do you feel that the path to becoming an Actuary is a level playing field for both men and women? 

“One thing about the Actuarial exam process, it is a meritocracy. The grading system doesn’t know your gender, location, age, or anything like that. Because of that, I have seen women in my career hold some very interesting influence because they are so dedicated to their career.” 

Even today, women only make up 28% of the STEM workforce. In your professional experience, have you ever been treated differently than your male colleagues? 

“Despite being qualified and having experience, I have been in a room and dealt with being discounted or feelings of imposter syndrome, and it stinks. But that is when I have had to make the decision to be heard, dig into my confidence, and know that I know what I am doing. As far as the gender differences—it is real and it is out there but as time goes on, I have seen progress in the right direction which is always very exciting.” 

What advice do you have for young women considering an actuarial career, or a career in STEM? 

“Be open to all of the possibilities. It is such a foundational skill set to possess. It’s about understanding how to solve a problem, and like anything else, it is hard work, takes discipline, but the opportunities are really great and interesting. If you enjoy STEM, stick with it through the harder times because it will be well worth it.” 

How about advice for your fellow women currently working in STEM? 

“Not all environments are equal. Seek out your people. There are a significant number of opportunities where you can take your skills, aptitudes and experiences where they will not only be appreciated but allow you to be happy and excited in the work that you are doing. Don’t stay in a position that doesn’t work for you.” 

Opportunities to work in STEM are at an all-time high and are expected to keep growing to grow at more than twice the rate of other occupations in the upcoming years. If you are inspired by Annie’s story and would like to work on her team, check out Hippo’s open roles in Actuarial Services. 




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