French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, was chosen on June 28, 2011 to lead the International Monetary Fund (IMF), becoming the global finance organization’s first female managing director.
Her victory over Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens, her only competitor for the position, was confirmed after United States Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, announced official support for Lagarde. “Minister Lagarde’s exceptional talent and broad experience will provide invaluable leadership for this indispensable institution at a critical time for the global economy,” Geithner said, according to the New York Times.
Lagarde’s appointment was all but confirmed before Geithner’s endorsement, and she has been the lead candidate since former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned the post following his arrest in New York on sexual assault charges in May. Lagarde spent the last month campaigning worldwide for the position, meeting with leaders not only in the US, but also in Brazil, China, India, and Africa, whose power she pledged to increase in the fund.
Lagarde will be the first IMF chief who is not an economist, but she argues that her experience speaks for itself.
"I am deeply honored by the trust placed in me,” Lagarde said in a statement, reported by MSNBC, after the vote, “I would like to thank the fund's global membership warmly for the broad-based support I have received."
Before entering French politics in 2005 as Minister of Trade, she led the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie. Appointed French Finance Minister in 2007, she was one of the longest-serving ministers under French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and worked to change French work culture and make the country’s labor market laws more flexible. Among her countrymen, she is sometimes called “The American” for her attempt to promote what NPR describes as “US-style Puritan workaholism” in France.
Stately, silver-haired, and stylish, Lagarde, 55, is considered one of the most powerful woman in the world, according to Forbes. As the new IMF chief starts in Washington on July 5, the world will be watching how she attempts to tackle the European debt crisis and restore the IMF’s image after the Strauss-Kahn scandal.
Edwin Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who knows Lagarde and told NPR’s All Things Considered: "She is an aggressive spokesperson for the advancement of women in everything.”
During an interview in October with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Lagarde asserted that women bring positive energy to professional workplaces: "I think we inject less libido … And less testosterone into the equation... It helps in the sense that we don't necessarily project our egos into cutting a deal."