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Christine Lagarde Named New Head of the IMF

Christine Lagarde Named New Head of the IMF

 

It won’t surprise anyone who has been following the scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned in disgrace after being arrested on charges of attempted rape, that the newly appointed IMF head is a woman.  The newly minted IMF head, Christine Lagarde, will step into the powerful position and immediately face the challenge of Greece’s worsening economic crisis, which is threatening the euro and financial markets worldwide.

Interestingly, Lagarde does not have a degree in economics, but she says that she’s made up for that with experience, which is certainly plausible given her stellar professional history.  A member of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet since 2007, she lived for many years in the United States and is sometimes referred to as “the American” for her attempts to reform French work culture.

According to NPR, over the past four years, “Lagarde led her country through the financial crisis, implementation of austerity measures and its chairmanship of the G-20 countries. She also corralled European support for the initial bailout of Greece.”

Countries with emerging markets struggled to wrest leadership of the IMF from Europe, which is understandable, given that every IMF head since the fund’s inception has been European.  But Lagarde, during her campaign for the position, argued that a European was necessary to deal with the crisis in Greece.  Another worry, however, is that because French banks have the largest exposure to Greece of the European countries, that Lagarde might not be objective in her dealings with Greece’s financial situation.

But, according to the New York Times, a source who is close to Lagarde but was not authorized to speak on the matter said that as her position changed, this would not be an issue.  ”Before, she was representing one country,” said the person. “She will now be wearing a different hat, which would free her from certain constraints, and allow her to have a more sound approach.”

Of course, gender has come into play in discussions of Lagarde’s ability to lead.  She has been described as a superb political negotiator, and others say that she manages to be at once “politically forceful but personally charming and likable,” walking the fine line that requires women in business and politics to be aggressive but also pleasant.  Lagarde says that her gender is an asset in the world of finance.  ”I think we inject less libido,” she said during an interview last fall. ”And less testosterone into the equation. … It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our egos into cutting a deal.”

While some may disagree with her assessments that women negotiate or operate more generally within the world of finance (surely, if this is true that women think less about their egos, could it be the result of the finance world’s social norms, not an innate female characteristic), it’s exciting to see a woman stepping into such a powerful position.  Now the question is how Lagarde will deal with the unfolding crisis on her own continent.

Photo from the World Economic Forum’s Flickr photostream.

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11 comments

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10:11PM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

When you have a dysfuctional monetary system to begin with,it hardly matters if a man or a woman is is charge. They've all been steeped in a grab bag of old economic theories that benefit only the wealthy.We need a bunch of fearless, non-ecconomists to start compareing the presumed results to the daily reality of ordinary people, and then, deconstruct their language into regular 'speak' so we can all understand what they're saying so we can easily point out where their ideas are off. For example, I recently read in a book by futurist, Hazel Henderson, that if infrastructure,public programs [schools, libraries, ect] social safety nets and the like were considered an investment in 'human capital' [that would be us] it would drastically lower the deficit. It is at present, still considered a 'cost'. That's kind of like saying if you get rid of everything that makes a working farm operation work, it won't cost as much to produce what ever the farm produces.

2:12PM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

I believe she will do a great job.

8:50AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Apparantly when Strauss-Khan was in charge, the IMF had a culture of women being sexually harrassed and it became so bad that the women stopped wearing skirts. It's no suprise S-K is being done for rape. With a woman in charge, things should improve :)

8:08AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

We'll see how she does. At least she doesn't look like the type who would rape working class women.

7:50AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

I think it's always worth noting that the IMF is one of the most egregiously authoritarian and anti-people organizations in the world. The IMF and Ms. Lagarde's handling of the crisis in Greece amounts to a coup d'etat by the bankers over the democratically elected government of a sovereign nation. These bankers believe there will to be stronger than the democratic will of any nation's population. They dictate terms prohibiting funding healthcare, pensions, education, care for those with disabilities, small farmer subsidies - every social program of any benefit to the people of Greece has been put on the chopping block in order to satisfy the greed of the IMF's bankers.

I can only imagine that Ms. Lagarde's efforts to Amercanize French work culture involved cutting wages and benefits whilst enforcing speed-up policies demanding more work from less people.

Mde. Lagarde's appointment is an important statement on the equality of women in politico-economic circles, but so was Margaret Thatcher's and look what she did to the English working class, or Angela Merkel today. A woman is just as capable as a man of holding positions that defund the majority for the profits of the few. I've no doubt that the IMF will continue imposing its "structural adjustment programs", so notorious in Africa and Latin America, everywhere it can reach its greedy little hands.

6:01AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Time will tell.

4:10AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

congrats & keep your chin up ... i'm sure you will give that job position all you hsve.

3:23AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

THREE CHEERS!

(and she won't be chasing bellboys down hotel corridors, neither)

11:43AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

She's very intelligent nad qualified for the role. Best of luck to her as well. She's going to need it.

7:06AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

I'm sure she will be an asset to the IMF.

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