Daily Express

‘White male new recruits must be approved by me to end sexism in the City’

First female Aviva CEO sparks debate as she pledges to hire more women bosses

- By Chris Riches

ONE of Britain’s top female CEOs has revealed she personally approves every senior white male recruit as she lifted the lid on City sexism that got worse the higher she climbed.

Amanda Blanc told MPs that women in the financial services are suffering more than in any other area of business.

She became insurance giant Aviva’s first female chief executive in 2020 and was asked to address the Treasury Select Committee about sexism in that sector.

Ms Blanc, 56, told MPs her company is trying to end the problem by hiring more women.

Any potential senior white male “non-diverse” recruit must get a final sign-off from her “and the chief people officer”.

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

“My belief is if you have more women in senior management roles, this behaviour will go away.”

Despite her position – leading a workforce of 22,000 at a firm with

‘I want to make sure it’s not just a phone call to a mate’

assets of £400billion and 19 million customers – Ms Blanc said at last year’s Aviva’s annual general meeting she was told she was “not the man for the job” and was asked whether she should be “wearing trousers”.

She slammed the comments as “unacceptab­le behaviour”, but said it has become more frequent and obvious the higher she has climbed, adding: “Perpetrato­rs of predatory behaviour needed to leave.”

She said verbal and physical abuse in finance firms surveyed last year was 10 percentage points higher than in other industries.

Her views were part of a third public hearing about whether City sexism had declined since 2018, when the last investigat­ion was held.

It was launched after accusation­s of sexual misconduct shook the business world, including scandals at the Confederat­ion of British Industry and harassment allegation­s against hedge-fund manager Crispin Odey.

Ms Blanc told the select committee: “We are dealing with a societal issue that is definitely amplified in financial

services.” And she added that while she may have had some “very positive experience­s” in the sector, “many women do not”.

The Aviva CEO said she had spoken to women who had shared some

“absolutely appalling” stories of harassment, including unwanted sexual advances, being followed into hotel rooms or being told their pregnancie­s were “inconvenie­nt” for the firm.

She told MPs: “The women in the firm have to know there is a process for speaking up, that process will be acted on, everything will be investigat­ed and the person who did the bad leaves the organisati­on, not the women.

“And we have had experience­s like that at Aviva, where the woman has stayed and man has gone.”

Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said she was shocked to hear of a “series of well-known bad apples that nobody does anything about”.

Ms Blanc is known for being a pioneer in male-dominated sectors, holding a string of senior roles in insurance and previously chairing the Profession­al Rugby Board for Wales.

 ?? ?? Trousers jibe... Amanda Blanc
Pictures: AVIVA
Trousers jibe... Amanda Blanc Pictures: AVIVA

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