We must ban AGM chauvinists for life: Campaigners demand action after Aviva chief exec Amanda Blanc faced barrage of sexist insults
Sexist hecklers at annual general meetings should face a lifetime ban to protect female bosses from abuse, say leading investor groups.
ShareSoc and the Shareholders’ Association have called for action, after three people verbally attacked Aviva boss Amanda Blanc at the insurer’s AGM last Monday.
Yesterday, the Aviva boss, who is one of only 10 female chief executives in the FTSE 100 companies, called for tough action but declined to spell out specific measures.
Sexism storm: Aviva boss Amanda Blanc (pictured) faced shocking abuse last week after three small investors made misogynistic remarks at the insurer’s AGM
However, investor groups say the threat of a lifetime ban would help deter unacceptable behaviour.
Charles Henderson, chairman of the UK Shareholders’ Association, said: ‘It would make them think twice, especially if they want to vote at the AGM.’
Blanc faced shocking abuse last week after three small investors made misogynistic remarks.
One, John Farmer, said that she was ‘not the man for the job’, while a second shareholder, Michael Mason-Mahon, questioned whether she should be ‘wearing trousers’ – a reference to her male predecessors.
A third shareholder, Ted O’Toole, sarcastically welcomed gender diversity on Aviva’s board. He said: ‘They are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future.’
ShareSoc is also in favour of banning misogynistic shareholders from meetings.
Director Cliff Weight said: ‘It’s outrageous. If shareholders don’t behave they should be asked to leave the meeting.
‘Nutters should be removed. You can give them a yellow card and then a red card.’
ShareSoc also recommended that companies spell out in the AGM invitations that racist or misogynistic comments are unacceptable.
Blanc believes the abuse she faced last week will have repercussions for how the meetings are conducted in the future.
She told the Daily Mail: ‘It is not right for somebody to be criticised for their gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
‘This kind of behaviour needs to be called out and not ignored.
‘I want to be judged by my performance as leader of Aviva. I do not want to be judged on whether I put on a skirt or dress to go to work.
‘We have to recognise that there is a problem there that we need to deal with.’
Blanc took over Aviva in July 2020 and set about overhauling the insurer after a string of male chief executives failed to revive its fortunes.
Yesterday, the company confirmed that it had returned £3.75billion to shareholders and will release another £1billion by the end of this month.
Blanc also hinted that Aviva may be able to give more cash back to investors this year.
The company also said that sales of life insurance jumped 2 per cent year-on-year in the first three months of this year, reaching £8.4billion.
Shareholders can expect to receive £870million in dividends this year, which is forecast to rise to £915million next year.