Aviva Chief Executive Amanda Blanc spoke of her shock to be receiving misogynistic comments at the insurer’s annual meeting last week, saying the incident could lead to a broader reassessment of how boards interact with shareholders in the future.
Blanc was the target of sexist comments from individual shareholders at Aviva’s General Meeting in London, with comments from the plenary that she was “not the man for the job” and that she should be “wearing pants”. The insurer’s president, Mike Craston, responded to the statements, saying he was “amazed.”
The next day, Blanc, who has held various senior roles in insurance for more than 30 years, warned that sexism in the financial sector was on the rise. She wrote on the social networking site LinkedIn: “The more senior the position I have taken, the more blatant the unacceptable behavior.”
Blanc, who is Aviva’s first female chief executive and is the government finance champion, told the Guardian: “It’s really important for investors to question Aviva’s board about the decisions they’ve made or the way the organization is doing. administered. What is clearly not acceptable are some of the comments.”
She added: “I’m sure there’s a lot of boards getting ready for their AGM thinking about how they can handle it. We prepare a lot of things for every business meeting we do, including our AGM. We don’t prepare for misogynistic comments. We just didn’t. In 2022, on this kind of forum, you wouldn’t expect that.”
Blanc said he has received many private messages of support from FTSE executives and presidents, some of whom have experienced sexism.
Her LinkedIn post received 1.6 million views and 825 comments the last time she looked, “from every industry, every industry, every genre, people expressing their support but also reliving their own stories.”
She added: “More role models, more women in senior roles and more ethnic diversity in senior roles will obviously make a difference.”
Blanc is one of the few female heads of the FTSE 100. A recent report by the Women in Finance initiative found that, at the current pace, it will take until 2050 to achieve gender parity at the senior levels of Britain’s financial services industry. Blanc described this as “absolutely outrageous”.
When Blanc took over Aviva in July 2020, the share price was 273p; it has since risen to 417p. It scaled back the business to focus on the UK, Ireland and Canada, selling eight divisions for £7.5bn last year and returning £4.75bn to shareholders. In its latest quarterly results on Wednesday, the company posted its biggest general insurance sales in a decade and increased the number of UK customers by 100,000 to 15.4 million.
“We have seen good support from our shareholders and we hope they have benefited from the improvement in the share price over the period and the focus of the business and what we have achieved so far,” Blanc said. “And that’s why I want to be judged, what I’m not prepared to be judged for is the fact that I’m a woman, not a man on stage there.”