Top Ten Most Powerful Women: Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde was until two days ago the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She had been head of the IMF since 2011, but resigned in the wake of her nomination as President of the European Central Bank. 

Lagarde trained as a lawyer in Paris and joined the international law firm of Baker McKenzie, specializing in labor, anti-trust and mergers and acquisitions. Baker McKenzie is the largest firm in the United States, and the third highest grossing. Lagarde as such impressed many when she became the first female chairman of the Global Executive Committee of the firm in 1999 and five years later, became chairman of the Global Strategic Committee. 

In 2005, Lagarde left the firm to become France’s foreign trade minister, becoming Finance and Economy minister two years later. Let it be noted that she was the first woman to hold this position in any of the G-7 countries (France, United States, Japan, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany).

On July 5 2011, Lagarde became the first female managing director of the IMF (I'm sensing a trend here). She assumed the role after the sudden resignation of the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn, following unproven allegations of sexual assault and attempted rape. Her joining of the IMF also came at a time of chaos resulting from the 2008 financial crisis. She is known for her recommendations of national austerity, her defence of Greece during its acute financial crisis, as well as her defense of women and other growing issues of inequality on a global scale. In 2016, Lagarde was found guilty of misusing public funds (criminal negligence), ten years prior when she was France's Finance Minister. She was nevertheless elected for a second term that same year as the IMF could not manage the complications associated with changing leaders once again.

Now, she moves on to become the president of the European Central Bank. She faces criticism from some, who argue that she is a lawyer and a politician, not an economist, having no operational experience at a central bank. The ECB “acts like the central bank of one of the world’s largest economic blocks—supporting public bond markets and ensuring that prices even in the weaker parts of the Eurozone do not slump into deflationary temporary” (Foreign Policy). Lagarde herself has also expressed doubts about her economic abilities, telling the Guardian, "I’m not the top-notch economist; I can understand what people talk about, I have enough common sense for that, and I’ve studied a bit of economics, but I’m not a super-duper economist".

Some however also argue that a her legendary diplomatic skills are exactly what is needed for such a position, especially what with the EU’s evolving political economy (Britain leaving the European Union, Italy’s uncertain position in the Eurozone, and the possibility of global trade wars being set off by president-elect Donald J. Trump). As Lagarde explained, "[The] appreciation for the interests pursued by the other side at a negotiation table, a sense of the collective interest and how that can transcend the vested individual interests of the members, that matters."

As a woman looking into law as a career, Lagarde is very interesting. I look forward to her next move.