Business, Finance & Economics

France's Christine Lagarde appointed to lead IMF (PHOTOS)

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Newly elected IMF president Christine Lagarde gets in her car after taking part in the broadcast news of French TV station TF1, following the announcement of her election, on June 28, 2011 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris. Lagarde was named the first-ever female chief of the IMF, facing an immediate crisis as violent Greek anti-austerity protests rocked eurozone stability.

Credit:

Miguel Medina

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."

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    French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde departs International Monetary Fund headquarters on June 23, 2011 in Washington, DC, where she was speaking with officials to gain critical U.S. support for her bid to lead the IMF.

    Credit:

    Win McNamee

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    Christine Lagarde poses on June 3, 2005, the first day in her post as Minister for External Trade in the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Before joining Villepin's ministry, Legarde served as the first female chairman of the U.S.- based law firm Baker & McKenzie.

    Credit:

    Joel Saget

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    A picture taken January 30, 2004 in Paris shows French President Jacques Chirac congratulating Christine Lagarde, then president of Baker and McKenzie, on the Knight of the Legion honor, the highest decoration in France. Lagarde was named Economy, Finance and Employment Minister in June, 2007, under President Nicolas Sarkozy's new government line-up forced upon him after his center-right party's worse than expected showing in parliamentary elections.

    Credit:

    Jacques Demarthon

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    French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde poses on the heliport of her ministry, on June 14, 2011 in Paris. On June 13, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Lagarde and Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens were on its shortlist to become managing director following the alleged sex scandal and May 18 resignation of French Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

    Credit:

    Martin Bureau

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    South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, on a two-day visit to France, stands with Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to pay respect at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, on March 3, 2011. Legarde and the Sarkozy government hosted Zuma with all the pomp due the leader of an emerging regional power and a key player in France's plan to use its G20 presidency to reform world finance.

    Credit:

    Michel Euler

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    French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn chat before posing for the family photo of G20 finance ministers, central bank governors, and IMF and World Bank leaders at the IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington on April 15, 2011. Strauss-Kahn resigned from the IMF on May 18, 2011, after his arrest in Manhattan on May 15 over allegations of sexual assault.

    Credit:

    Nicholas Kamm

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    Christine Lagarde talks to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on June 8, 2011. Lagarde met with senior Chinese officials June 8 as she pursued a global roadshow trying to persuade sceptical emerging countries to back her bid to lead the IMF, and went on to garner critical US support in Washington the week after.

    Credit:

    Liu Jin

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    Newly elected IMF president Christine Lagarde gets in her car after taking part in the broadcast news of French TV station TF1, following the announcement of her election, on June 28, 2011 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris. Lagarde was named the first-ever female chief of the IMF, facing an immediate crisis as violent Greek anti-austerity protests rocked eurozone stability.

    Credit:

    Miguel Medina

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    Christine Lagarde, Finance Minister of France, arrives with her companion French businessman Xavier Giocanti at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris for a state dinner with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Sleiman on March 16, 2009. Lagarde, divorced and the mother of two, was elected on June 28, 2011 to lead the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and will be its first female head.

    Credit:

    Olivier Laban-Mattei