The chairman of Aviva said he was “flabbergasted” after female board members suffered a torrent of sexist abuse at the company’s annual general meeting.
George Culmer hit out at “simply inappropriate” comments by shareholders including one investor who said that Amanda Blanc, chief executive, is “not the man for the job”. He said that her speech did not match with Aviva’s share price performance over the past decade.
Another individual shareholder, Michael Mason-Mahon, asked whether Ms Blanc should be “wearing trousers” as he mentioned some of her predecessors.
Ted O’Toole, also a small investor, expressed appreciation for the gender diversity at the board, as women account for almost half of the top directors, and said: “They are so good at basic housekeeping activities, I’m sure this will be reflected in the direction of the board in future.”
Mr Culmer said: “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.”
Ms Blanc, who joined the FTSE 100 group in summer 2020 as its first female chief executive, announced plans to hand £4.75bn to shareholders on Monday.
Aviva’s stock has since risen over 40pc since she started, to reach a valuation of £15.4bn, although it is still below the £20bn levels of the previous decade.
It was the first in-person AGM held by Aviva since the start of the pandemic, though it was also streamed online.