Why Different Is Better; the Incoming CEO of a Global Mining Company Says Being an Extroverted Outsider Has Helped Her Advance. Being a Woman Who Loved the Sciences Didn't Hurt, Either

By Carroll, Cynthia | Newsweek, January 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

Why Different Is Better; the Incoming CEO of a Global Mining Company Says Being an Extroverted Outsider Has Helped Her Advance. Being a Woman Who Loved the Sciences Didn't Hurt, Either


Carroll, Cynthia, Newsweek


Byline: Cynthia Carroll (CARROLL is the incoming CEO of Anglo American, the worldwide mining and metals company.)

I couldn't say there was one defining moment of how I got to where I am today. But discussions about taking over as CEO of Anglo American came about after I met Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the chairman of Anglo, at Davos in January 2006. I suppose I'm an extrovert. So I went over and introduced myself and then I said, "And what do you do?" So that was our introduction.

During high school, I was not very turned on by the sciences and thought I would pursue art history and languages. I attended Skidmore College in New York and, knowing that I would have to fulfill my one-year science requirement, I took geology my first semester. I went on for a second semester and then attended Princeton's summer field course in Red Lodge, Montana. This was a turning point, as it was clear I wanted to study geology. From there, I took chemistry, physics and math, enjoying the sciences more than anything else.

Throughout my career, I've worked in a male environment. First it was the oil industry, then the aluminum industry. When I took over as managing director of Canadian aluminum company Alcan's Aughinish Alumina business in Ireland, competitors and insiders thought Alcan was out of its mind to appoint a woman who had no alumina expertise, was young and not Irish. In my experience in male-dominated environments, I've learned that after a couple of months of being in the job, all that really goes away and performance is what matters. Not to sound too simplistic, but being a woman has never been a barrier or an issue for me. There were times when people thought I was too young or didn't have the background but I never believed anything to be insurmountable. In business, there are always challenges to deal with but you find ways to tackle them or different approaches to offset them.

At Anglo American, I suppose that I am even more different. …

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