Last Wednesday, Christine Lagarde announced her candidacy for managing director of the International Monetary Fund. While I personally support Ms. Lagarde’s candidacy, I am pleased with the trajectory of the reaction in response to her announcement.
READ the NYTs article here: Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Finance, to Seek Top I.M.F. Job – NYTimes.com.
Rather than focusing on her gender as the defining characteristic in her candidacy, the reactionary forces have focused on the unwritten rule that the head of the IMF is a European. The BRIC countries have protested not against Ms. Lagarde’s qualifications or gender, but rather the fact that the leadership in international financial institutions doesn’t accurately represent the distribution of global economic power. And they may have a point.
Previous World Bank presidents, have all been Western Europeans. The International Finance Corporation (part of the WB) has largely been headed by Western Europeans, except for Moeen Qureshi in 1977 to 1980. Aside from Mr. Qureshi, the major regional development banks The African Development Bank, The Asian Development Bank, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and The Inter-American Development Bank Group have all been been headed by individuals from their respective regions.
What brazenly stands out in the leadership history of these organizations is the fact that none of these organizations have ever been headed by a woman. The NYTs article that I’ve linked to above states that,
[Lagarde] would be the first woman to head an international financial institution, not an international institution. (The World Health Organization, Unicef and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, among others, are or have been headed by women.)
Clearly there a justified need for increased diversity in international financial institutions. However, based on the fact that there has yet to be a woman in any of these organizations I think now would be an especially opportune time to change this trend. Particularly in light of the recent DSK scandal.
Watch this great snippet between Thomas Freedman and Christine Lagarde for The Daily Beast as they discuss advice for future female financial ministers. She’s got my vote.