Case Study: How Anglo American is using sponsorship to drive gender balance

20 November 2017 -

Anik MichaudAn important case study about how the global mining business is tackling the industry’s gender diversity challenges by sponsoring senior women

In making progress toward improving gender balance, one industry has seemed particularly resistant to change — the mining industry, which used to be notorious for being a ‘boys club’.

Until recently, mining companies were among the last bastions of all-male boards and had a poor track record in attracting and promoting women. This, however, is changing.

Global mining business Anglo American employs close to 90,000 people worldwide. In its latest annual report, the group recognises that: “There remain challenges in making the traditionally male-dominated mining sector attractive to females.” However, it now has three female non-executive directors on its board – that’s almost 30% female, putting them well above the mining industry average of about 11%. The latest (2016) figures show that 25% of managers across the group are female, and 18% of the total workforce.

Executive sponsorship, led by Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani, is playing a central role in advancing women throughout the organisation and supporting them as they strive for more senior positions within the company. This is in tune with the CMI Women finding that one in three managers rate coaching and mentoring as a great way for women to progress in their careers.


Anik Michaud, Anglo American’s group director of corporate relations, was appointed to the group management committee (GMC) in 2015. She has experienced first-hand the benefits of executive sponsorship, saying: “I wouldn’t be remotely where I am without Mark’s support.”

True sponsorship goes beyond the feedback and advice often provided by mentors. Executive sponsors actively support someone in the organisation by advocating for, protecting and fighting for the career advancement of an individual.

Effective executive sponsors, therefore, are proactively exposing women to other executives with organisational clout, working to identify more challenging strategic assignments and placing women in critical posts.

Since joining Anglo American in 2008, Michaud, who was originally a lawyer, has delivered a global rebrand, strategically restructured the corporate relations and office of the chief executive functions, developed the first internal engagement strategy – including a global change management framework – and is now articulating the company’s revamped and ambitious sustainability strategy.

“My challenge was to add value by bringing a different voice and angle to how we make policy and strategic decisions,” Michaud says. “I have never been a shrinking violet and I ask a lot of questions.

“We can never talk about diversity without talking about inclusion,” She adds. “If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is tokenism. The damage that does to the people who have the credibility to be where they are is incredible.”


Appreciating the importance of bringing other women with you, Michaud and other women have set up a Women at CHT (Carlton House Terrace) group, named after Anglo American’s headquarters. The group started out as a Women’s Leadership Group but wasn’t inclusive enough for Michaud and colleagues.

“We extended it so we now have about 70 women at head office and we’re currently working on defining our plan of action,” she explained. “Our purpose is to support women in achieving their potential at Anglo American.”

With strong sponsorship from the board and her personal commitment to sponsoring other women in management, Michaud is hopeful these positive changes will flow through the organisation to see greater gender balance at all levels.

"Because of the importance of leadership diversity to [chairman] Sir John Parker and his insistence on the value of having at least 30% of the board be represented by women, over the past few years we’ve consistently had three women on our board,” said Cristina Bruce, government relations principal at Anglo American. “That secures better gender diversity at the highest level of the company. We now need to focus on the development pipeline at all levels, including attracting women into the mining industry in the first place, across technical and non-technical disciplines.

“It’s a long journey, but with the growing commitment to executive sponsorship and the emerging Women at CHT group, Anglo American is making progress to advance gender balance in the company.”

Despite documented success of executive sponsoring interventions such as Anglo American’s in improving gender balance, only 23% of UK managers actively sponsor women. Find out more about how CMI Women can help with mentoring and sponsorship in your organisation

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