Female CEO told she’s ‘not the man for the job’ at ’flabbergastingly’ sexist shareholder meeting

Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc poses for a portrait in an office.
Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc is told she’s “not the man for the job” in a startling shareholder meeting.
Courtesy of Aviva

British insurance giant Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc was the subject of startlingly sexist remarks after delivering a speech at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Blanc, who joined the company in April 2020 as its first-ever female lead, highlighted in her speech—which was streamed online—a string of eight disposals Aviva made over the past year that netted the company £7.5 billion ($9.2 billion).

She also announced the company was returning £4.75 billion to shareholders—£750 million above the target set last year, on the back of increased cash generation and dividend guidance.

But this didn’t please everyone, according to the Financial Times.

One ordinary investor said that Blanc’s planned disposals and capital returns didn’t match the share price performance over the past decade and that she was “not the man for the job.”

Another investor, Michael Mason-Mahon, reportedly commented on the speech referencing previous leaders of Aviva and questioned whether Blanc should be “wearing trousers.”

Ted O’Toole, a third small shareholder, congratulated the board on its gender diversity, then allegedly added: “They are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future.”

Chair of the board George Culmer hit out at the comments made by the shareholders, saying he was “flabbergasted” by the inappropriate remarks.

Said Culmer: “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 [annual general meeting]. I’m flabbergasted, to be honest.”

Aviva did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment by the time of publication.  

Sexism isn’t new to London’s insurance world

Culmer has admonished rude remarks at AGMs in the past, but this was the first time the remarks had been “sexist” in nature, according to the Financial Times.

Yet sexism isn’t new to London’s insurance world.

The world’s biggest and oldest insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, has been struggling to clean up its own culture since a 2019 Bloomberg report called the 330-year-old company “the most archaic corner left in global finance.”

The report found evidence provided by 18 women of widespread sexual harassment at Lloyd’s, ranging from inappropriate remarks to physical assault.  

A survey was then commissioned by the Banking Standards Board on behalf of Lloyd’s, which found that nearly 500 people working in the insurance market had suffered or observed sexual harassment in the past 12 months in 2019.

Aviva has been working to rectify this.

Half of Aviva’s board members are women, and women occupy the chief financial officer, chief risk, chief people, chief marketing, and general counsel roles. But in a 2021 report, the U.K. government found, women’s average hourly pay at Aviva was still 25.9% lower than men’s.

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