Cynthia Carroll: Rough ride ends for the 'outsider' at Anglo American

She suffered sexism in the City, but there were highs

In one of the most infamous business interviews of recent times, Anglo American's Cynthia Carroll was written off by a former deputy chairman of her company in a few harsh words. "This woman's hopeless," he said.

As chief executive of South Africa's Anglo American, which is listed in London, Carroll is the ultimate outsider doing what has been dubbed the "toughest job in mining".

So, in some ways at least, it's probably safe to assume she is looking fondly towards life after Friday, when she is scheduled to make her final public appearance for the company. She announces annual results for the sixth and last time before stepping down from the helm on 3 April.

Carroll was Anglo American's first female – and first non-South African – chief executive. If that wasn't enough, she came to the top job from outside Anglo American, where the tradition had previously been to hand the position to a well-groomed insider.

She was finally forced to resign in October after months of pressure from shareholders, who are likely to feel vindicated by the latest set of results. Carroll, a straight-talking American, is set to announce a near-50 per cent decline in full-year operating profit, from $11bn (£7bn) in 2011 to an estimated $6bn last year – not much of a parting shot. Anglo American's bottom line suffered from falling commodity prices, rising costs and wildcat strikes at its South African platinum operation, which pushed the subsidiary into the red.

Analysts say that Carroll undoubtedly made mistakes during her tenure, in particular over her decision to buy the entire Minas Rio iron ore project in Brazil, which is now billions of dollars over budget and five years behind schedule.

However, according to a Charles Stanley analyst, Tom Gidley-Kitchin, she also did a lot of things right in what is an extremely difficult job."She's moved Anglo American in the right direction and freshened up the group as a whole.

"But you could say that maybe the task was too much for any one person to take on," he says.

Carroll's achievements include significantly tidying up the unfocused, bureaucratic sprawl she inherited in March 2007, improving relations with the South African government, reducing the company's heavy reliance on its homeland by prospecting abroad and greatly improving its poor safety record.

On top of doing an already difficult job, Carroll faced a barrage of criticism which, many believe, was exacerbated by her outsider status.

Anyone doubting the hurdles she faced – especially the bit about being a woman in an industry not known for its enlightened attitudes to gender – need look no further than that former deputy chairman, Graham Boustred.

Having proclaimed Carroll as a hopeless woman in the 2009 interview, he went on to suggest that it is difficult to find good female chief executives "because most women are sexually frustrated".

He kept digging: "Men are not because they can fall back on call girls. If you have a CEO who is sexually frustrated, she can't act properly." Another example of the kind of prejudice Carroll faced came from a senior banker, who lamented that she "spent far too much time on equality issues".

However, while Carroll has criticised the "gross under-representation of women in mining", there is little sign that she allocated a damaging amount of time to addressing the issue, and on the day she resigned made it clear that "the last thing you want is token women".

No doubt Carroll's replacement, Mark Cutifani, will in the future be condemned for some of his actions. But as a man he would appear to have one significant advantage over his predecessor which may afford him a little more leeway to make any mistakes.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project