Posted on December 15, 2023

White Male Recruits Must Get Final Sign Off From Me, Says Aviva Boss

Lucy Burton, The Telegraph, December 13, 2023

Amanda Blanc, the chief executive of Aviva, has said all senior white male recruits must get final sign-off from her as part of a diversity drive to stamp out sexism in the financial services industry.

Ms Blanc, who became Aviva’s first female chief executive in 2020, told a parliamentary committee that there is “no non-diverse hire at Aviva without it being signed off by me and the chief people officer”.

She said: “Not because I don’t trust my team but [because] I want to make sure that the process followed for that recruitment has been diverse, has been properly done and is not just a phone call to a mate saying, ‘would you like a job, pop up and we’ll fix it up for you’.”

It is understood that Ms Blanc’s comments only apply to senior hires at Aviva, which has 22,000 staff.

Ms Blanc told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that harassment in financial services is worse than in any other industry. The hearing was part of a review into whether sexism in the City had improved since a previous review into the issue in 2018.

Committee member Dame Angela Eagle said she has been shocked by the evidence she has received for the inquiry so far which has included examples of sexual assault, bullying and anecdotes involving a “series of well-known bad apples that nobody ever does anything about”.

Ms Blanc suffered a torrent of sexist abuse at the FTSE 100 company’s annual general meeting last year, when an investor said she was “not the man for the job” and another asked whether she should be “wearing trousers”.

A third shareholder said Aviva’s female directors are “so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future”.

The insurance chief has repeatedly spoken out against the sexism she has faced in her career, revealing after the investor meeting last year that “unacceptable behaviour” has become worse and more “overt” the more senior she has become.

She also flagged misogyny within the Welsh Rugby Union, of which she was chairman between 2019 and 2021, in her resignation letter.

She said she had heard a council member say: “Women should know their place in the kitchen and stick to ironing; men are the master race.”

The insurance industry is fighting to change after facing repeated sexism scandals.

Lloyd’s of London, the insurance market, was forced into making a number of changes in 2019 when a report revealed a culture of heavy drinking and sexual harassment. Lloyd’s only allowed women onto its floor in 1973.