By Noor NanjiBusiness reporter, BBC News

Image caption, Aviva chief Amanda Blanc said she had her ‘fair share of misogynistic scars’

The boss of Aviva has responded to “sexist” jibes that were allegedly made about her by some of the group’s shareholders this week.


Amanda Blanc, group chief executive of UK insurer Aviva, said the comments were “derogatory”.

She added that she had picked up her “fair share of misogynistic scars”.

The Financial Times reported a series of remarks that were aimed at senior women, including Ms Blanc, at Aviva’s annual general meeting (AGM).

Ms Blanc joined Aviva in July 2020, becoming the company’s first female chief executive.

According to the newspaper, two shareholders criticised Ms Blanc at the meeting.

One reportedly said a speech where she highlighted returns to shareholders was at odds with Aviva’s share price performance over the last ten years, which signified “she’s not the man for the job”.

Aviva’s market capitalisation is about a third higher than when Ms Blanc joined.

Another shareholder is said to have referred back to the company’s past bosses and asked whether Ms Blanc should be “wearing trousers”.

A third reportedly made a jibe about the women on the board, saying: “They are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future.”

Writing in a LinkedIn post, Ms Blanc said: “In all honesty, after 30 plus years in financial services I am pretty used to sexist and derogatory comments like those in the AGM yesterday.”

She added that like “many other women in business”, she has picked up her “fair share of misogynistic scars” during her time working at various companies and in boardrooms.

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

Ms Blanc said that while she’d like to say things have been improving recently, she feels the opposite is true, with the fact that such comments were now being made publicly rather than in private “a new development”.

“The more senior the role I have taken, the more overt the unacceptable behaviour,” she said.

Aviva’s chair, George Culmer, criticised the comments at the end of the AGM.

Mr Culmer refused to thank people for their contributions to the session, saying some comments had been “simply inappropriate” and adding that he was “flabbergasted”.

Concluding her post, Ms Blanc expressed her hope that initiatives working towards gender equality will help to eradicate such occurrences in future.

“But in truth that seems a long way off,” she said. “So we have little choice other than to redouble our efforts together.”