Aviva Group CEO Amanda Blanc has hit back after a barrage of ‘inappropriate’ comments was targeted towards female board members at the insurance company’s annual general meeting this week.
During the company’s first in-person AGM since the start of the pandemic, one investor suggested that Blanc was “not the man for the job”, while another asked whether she should be “wearing trousers”.
Blanc joined Aviva in July 2020 as its first female chief executive. It has also been reported that a small investor, upon congratulating the insurer on its gender diversity, said: “They are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future.”
In a LinkedIn post commenting on the meeting, Blanc said: “Sadly, just like many MANY other women in business, I’ve picked up my fair share of misogynistic scars whilst travelling on my journey through various companies and boardrooms until arriving at Aviva.
“I guess that after you have heard the same prejudicial rhetoric for so long though, it makes you a little immune to it all.”
Women in finance
She added that unacceptable sexist behaviour had become more overt as she gained more senior roles.
“The surprising thing is that this type of stuff used to be said in private, perhaps from the safety of four walls inside an office – the fact that people are now making these comments in a public AGM is a new development for me personally,” she said.
As the meeting concluded, company chairman George Culmer called out the inappropriate comments from shareholders.
“I’m not going to say thank you to everyone for your comments, because I think there were some comments in that session that were simply inappropriate and I do not expect and would [not] want to hear at any future AGM. I’m flabbergasted, to be honest,” he said.
Blanc is champion of the Women in Finance initiative, which supports gender parity in the financial services industry.
In March, she complained that progress towards gender equality in the sector was “frustratingly slow”, with research showing that women in senior management had only increased by 1% between 2018 and 2020.