During Women’s History Month, we celebrate the countless contributions women have made throughout history and highlight their accomplishments in our modern world. At the National Public Pension Coalition (NPPC), we’re immensely grateful to the women who dedicate their careers to serving our communities as public employees. Without their service, day-to-day life would look a lot different. We advocate for pensions because we understand the sacrifices public employees make during their careers, and we know that a secure, dignified retirement is the right way to thank them. 

Sherry Chan, who serves as the Chief Actuary for New York City, knows this too. As Actuary, Chan uses her years of experience as a progressive leader and actuarial expert to protect and facilitate the retirements of thousands of New York City’s public workers. Her biography from the NYC Office of the Actuary website reads: “Ms. Chan provides technical expertise to the City’s five retirement systems and pension funds – school administrators, teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees – with approximately 750,000 active and retired members and over $200 billion of assets. Ms. Chan certifies the $10 billion annual required pension contributions for these retirement systems and pension funds, ensuring accuracy, and oversees a City agency with a professional staff who has decades of experience in and out of City service.”

This Women’s History Month, NPPC is proud to highlight Chan’s work as another example of how women have contributed throughout history. NPPC was recently lucky enough to ask Chan questions about her work, which will be published in two parts. Part I of the interview appears below – make sure to check back next week for Part II!

NPPC: What brought about your interest in actuarial science?  Were there any female role models in your life growing up who inspired or encouraged you to pursue your career path?

Sherry Chan (SC): Although I had a slight familiarity with actuarial science in high school and more so in college, I always had a passion for math when I was a student. I knew I wanted to use it in my career in a way that I could see its effects in the real world. I realized that a career as an actuary would allow me to do just that! 

Except for one of my career opportunities, I had all-female supervisors before becoming New York City’s Chief Actuary. By virtue of supervising me and helping me to advance my skills and engagement in the public pension actuarial profession, these previous bosses of mine served as female role models by their support and encouragement of my professional growth.

What does it mean to you to be New York City’s first woman and person of color to serve as the Actuary?

When I accepted the position of Chief Actuary, I never really gave this much thought.  That does not mean I wasn’t proud to achieve this distinction of being a first in not only one but two categories. I was just more focused on accepting and embracing a position that I was ready for and anxious to serve in. 

Now, nearly six years later, the distinction means more to me. It serves as a reminder that diversity within professions and organizations is something in which we should all strive to do our part. One way I have been committed to doing this is by using my “being first” distinction to look for opportunities to mentor those who remind me of myself when I was just starting out. 

Is there advice you would give to women pursuing careers in male-dominated fields such as financial services?

The advice is to not let simply being in a male-dominated field lead you to think any less of your abilities! The mere fact that you were accepted to the same school, obtained the same degree, was offered the same position to the same company, and met the same credentialing requirements proves that you are just as capable! Why wouldn’t you shine or be just as (if not more!) successful than the next guy?

For more information on Chan and her work as the New York City Actuary, please visit the New  York City Office of the Actuary website.