Christine Lagarde. 58 and fabulous. Originally from Paris but now based in Washington, DC. Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A jurist by profession, Lagarde joined the French government as Minister for Foreign Trade in 2005 after working as a commercial lawyer in an international firm. In 2007 she became Finance and Economy Minister, the first woman in a G7 country to hold the position. As her government was part of the G20, Lagarde got stuck in to the management of the financial crisis, which was by 2009 giving Europe a right old thrashing. She became Chairman of the G20 in 2011, when France shimmied into the presidential seat. In July of that year she became the first female Managing Director of the IMF in its 70-year history. Sensing a pattern here?
WHY SHE’S A WONDER WOMAN
The IMF functions kind of like an international payday loan company for countries that have come upon hard times and can’t meet their financial commitments. Rather than charging sky-high interest rates, however, the IMF demands that countries make radical changes to their economic policies. High profile ‘debtors’ include Greece and Portugal.
As a grand légume at the IMF, Lagarde is charged with helping struggling countries to shovel themselves out of the economic mire through financial support and economic reforms. A worthy enough endeavour, but not everybody thinks she’s such a hero: students at Smith College in the US launched a petition to stop Lagarde speaking at their commencement, calling the IMF “a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries” which has “led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Wow – somebody’s been paying attention in their Women’s Studies lectures.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY
“Crisis? What crisis?” Some European politicians have declared the worst to be over for the 17-member Eurozone. But Lagarde isn’t having any of that. Speaking at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels in December, she asked, “Can a crisis really be over when 12% of the labour force is without a job? When unemployment among the youth is in very high double digits, reaching more than 50% in Greece and Spain? And when there is no sign that it is becoming easier for people to pay down their debts?” Girl makes a good point.
WHO’D PLAY HER IN ‘IMF’, THE MOVIE
Her doppelganger Tilda Swinton, obvs.
BEST KNOWN FOR
Fabulous sense of style, permanent St Tropez tan and her straight talk. Lagarde recently invited controversy when, in a 2012 interview with The Guardian, she agreed that she thought the Greeks were now paying the price for not paying their taxes. And she wasn’t pulling any punches speaking in Bilbao earlier this year, when she put paid to the idea that the recession in Spain is over – talk about choosing your audience.
“The bastards”. Describing her inclusive management style in a 2012 Newsweek interview, Lagarde said she “[leaves] aside the bastards, because that’s one thing that I don’t compromise with: people who lie, people who cheat, people who are not with the group and behave like parasites. That, I can’t stand.” Fair enough, then.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW
Lagarde was once part of the French national synchronised swimming team. She has famously said that it was doing the sport that she learned to “grit [her] teeth and smile” – a skill that’s surely proven useful in the over-chlorinated swimming pool that is international politics.
WHERE SHE’LL BE HOLIDAYING
Holiday? Not much time for that. She’s just been on a diplomatic visit to Morocco – does that count?