Aviva CEO condemns industry sexism, says it is becoming ‘more overt’

Amanda Blanc joined Aviva in July 2020 (Aviva plc)
Amanda Blanc joined Aviva in July 2020 (Aviva plc)

The CEO of insurance company Aviva has spoken out about sexism in the financial services industry.

In a post to LinkedIn on 11 May, Amanda Blanc said she has “picked up [her] fair share of misogynistic scars” after several sexist remarks were levelled at her during Aviva’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Monday.

“In all honesty, after 30+ years in Financial Services I am pretty used to sexist and derogatory comments like those in the AGM yesterday,” Blanc wrote.

The post has received more than 13,000 reactions and has been shared more than 300 times.

“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,” Blanc added.

“I guess that after you have heard the same prejudicial rhetoric for so long though, it makes you a little immune to it all.”

The Financial Times reported that several sexist remarks were made towards Blanc during Aviva’s AGM earlier this week.

One shareholder said Blanc – the first woman to become a chief executive at the company, appointed in July 2020 – was “not the man for the job”.

Another commented on the board’s gender diversity: “They are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in the future.”

Blanc went on to say that her experiences of sexism have increased with each new senior role she has taken, with the behaviour becoming “more overt”.

“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.

“I can only hope that initiatives seeking gender equality like #womeninfinance and others can slowly eradicate this type of occurrence for the next generation – but in truth that seems a long way off; even with the help of some fantastically supportive men who speak out on the issue.”

The shareholders’ comments were chastised by Aviva chair George Culmer who described them as “simply inappropriate”.

“I do not expect and would [not] want to hear [the comments] at any future AGM. I’m flabbergasted, to be honest,” he said.