News Analysis

Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc says sexism got worse the more senior her role

by Stephen Conmy on May 16, 2022

Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc has responded to the sexist remarks directed at her at the insurance firm’s AGM by saying such treatment has become worse as she’s risen through the financial industry ranks.

What’s happened?

At the AGM, the Aviva CEO, who joined the company in April 2020 as its first female CEO, was told she was “not the man for the job” and should not be “wearing trousers.”

“In all honesty, after 30+ years in financial services, I am pretty used to sexist and derogatory comments like those in the AGM yesterday,” she wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Misogynistic scars

She said, like “MANY other women in business”, she had picked up misogynistic scars as she rose in position within the finance industry.

“I would like to tell you that things have got better in recent years, but it’s fair to say that it has increased … and the more senior the role I have taken, the more overt the unacceptable behaviour,” she wrote.

What surprised Blanc about the recent sexist remarks was how open they were. “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.”

A long-time campaigner for gender equality in the finance sector, Blanc says she hoped the incident would galvanise people and speed up the eradication of this type of sexist commentary for women leaders. However, she also said, “in truth, that seems a long way off.”

Gender parity 30 years away

Blanc has been working on gender equality initiatives for years. Having encouraged firms in the City of London to boost gender diversity and tackle the slow progress of women into senior roles, she was named the government’s women in finance champion.

According to the government’s ‘Women in Finance Charter’, the finance industry will not achieve gender parity at senior levels until at least 2052.

A report by European Women on Boards says only 7% of European listed companies are led by women, and in 2021 only eight organisations had promoted women to the top role.

Half of Aviva’s board members are women

At the time of her appointment as CEO of Aviva in April 2020, Blanc was the sixth woman to lead a FTSE 100 company.

According to the company, Aviva also named Charlotte Jones as its chief financial officer in April this year, making it the second FTSE 100 to have a female CEO-CFO duo at the helm.

Half of Aviva’s board members are women (a situation that led to a sexist comment during Aviva’s annual general meeting about “good housekeeping”). Women occupy the chief financial officer, chief risk, chief people, chief marketing, and general counsel roles.

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