Shareholders subjected the female CEO of insurance giant Aviva to multiple sexist comments at AGM that left board chair 'flabbergasted'

Shareholders subjected the female CEO of insurance giant Aviva to multiple sexist comments at AGM that left board chair 'flabbergasted'
Aviva headquarters pictured in London.BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Amanda Blanc, the CEO of Aviva, endured repeated sexist remarks at the company AGM.
  • Aviva's chair of the board, George Culmer, said he was "flabbergasted" by the comments.

The CEO of UK insurance giant Aviva, Amanda Blanc, was subject to a string of sexist remarks from shareholders at its annual general meeting, the Financial Times first reported.

Blanc, the company's first female CEO, delivered a speech at the meeting in London on May 9 underscoring the company's disposals and its planned £4.75 billion ($5.86 billion) capital return.

Aviva confirmed the occurrence of the shareholder remarks to Insider but declined to comment further.

One investor responded by saying that Blanc's delivery didn't match the share price performance in the company's last 10 years, which "signifies she's not the man for the job."

Another shareholder, Ted O'Toole, applauded the company for its gender diversity, then added: "They [women] are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I'm sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future."


A third investor, Michael Mason-Mahon, commented on Blanc's wardrobe, questioning whether she should be "wearing trousers."

Mason-Mahon contacted Insider after publication to offer the full comment that he said he made at the AGM.

According to Mason-Mahon, he said at the event: "So Amanda might come around the front and pretend to be Mark Wilson but she should be wearing trousers."

Mark Wilson was Aviva's former CEO.

The AGM incident highlights the challenges women in top executive roles continue to face in the workplace. Challenges persist even at firms such as Aviva, where 50% of board members are women, and women also make up key leadership roles, including the chief financial officer and chief marketing officer positions, Fortune reported.


Aviva's chair, George Culmer, responded to the remarks made at the meeting, saying he was "flabbergasted" by them, the FT reported.

Culmer added: "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."

The chair said remarks at AGMs in the past have been rude at times but this was the first time they were sexist, the FT reported.

Sexism has plagued London's insurance sector in the past. There have been many reports of sexism and harassment towards women at Lloyd's of London, the world's largest insurance market, per a 2019 Bloomberg investigation. That report found evidence that 18 women had faced such harassment at the market.

The outlet added that the vast majority of people who work at Lloyd's are not employees of the exchange but that "the norms of the insurance market are in part shaped there."


A survey conducted by the Banking Standards Board on behalf of Lloyd's found nearly 500 people in the insurance market had faced or witnessed sexual harassment in 2019, the Guardian reported at the time.