Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, has secured the top job at the International Monetary Fund. She'll be filling the position vacated by former Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He was arrested last month on charges of attempted rape. From the moment Strauss-Kahn was led away in handcuffs, Lagarde was the leading candidate to replace him.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi has this profile of the first woman to head the IMF.

YUKI NOGUCHI: Earlier today, the U.S. announced its support for Christine Lagarde's candidacy. Hours later, the IMF board announced its decision. She's popular in France, although sometimes her countrymen refer to Lagarde as the American.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CHRISTINE LAGARDE: Yes, that's true.

NOGUCHI: Here, she's speaking to NPR in 2007, the same year of her appointment to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet. Her American-ness included an attempt to change French work culture and encourage more U.S.-style Puritan workaholism(ph).

LARGARDE: One of the communist members of the National Assembly, we still have a few of them, actually addressed me in English, just to probably, you know, pull my leg or take the mick(ph) out of me.

NOGUCHI: Lagarde acquired her American sensibilities over years of living in the U.S. She spent a year of high school at the private Holton-Arms School near Washington, D.C. She speaks impeccable English. Her friends include Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and she served as the first female chairman of the U.S.- based law firm Baker & McKenzie. Her popularity even earned her a 2009 appearance on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show." Here, he's praising her handling of banks in France.

JON STEWART, Host:

You went in there and fired a couple of bankers.

LAGARDE: Yes, I did, sir.

STEWART: Can you fire a couple of ours?

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIENCE CHEERING)

NOGUCHI: Though her power base comes from Europe and the U.S., she waged an unusually public, global campaign for the IMF job. The 55-year-old Lagarde tweeted her way through her global stops as she courted votes from Brazil and India, emerging economies that have long wanted to see someone from the developing world in a top job at the IMF. She posted pictures and interview footage, including this online video from India's CNBC-TV18.

LARGARDE: Clearly, emerging economies must have appropriate representation.

NOGUCHI: In the middle of this worldwide tour, Lagarde held an online conference of sorts. She took questions from her online followers and Facebook friends. Here's one question from LuxeChronicles asking, will you continue to use social media to improve transparency in the workings of the IMF? And three minutes later from Lagarde, why not, if it's in compliance with the rules of the Fund, and if you follow me?

There was one potential hitch in Lagarde's campaign. A French court must decide whether she abused power in her role in a large settlement involving one of President Sarkozy's friends. Another issue she had to address - she has no economics degree, something Lagarde has said she's made up for with experience.

In 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 corralled European support for the initial bailout of Greece.

Edwin Truman is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Truman has met Lagarde on several occasions. He says her style is both politically forceful but personally charming and likable.

EDWIN TRUMAN: She is an aggressive spokesperson for the advancement of women and everything. And indeed, the truth of the matter is, in the economic and financial area, women are, for a variety of reasons, underrepresented.

NOGUCHI: Lagarde is silver-haired and statuesque. The divorced mother of two likes to trumpet womanhood as an asset in the world of finance. Here she is from an October interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC's "This Week."

LARGARDE: I think we inject less libido, less testosterone.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, Host:

Less libido?

LARGARDE: Yes, and less testosterone into the equation.

AMANPOUR: And how does that help?

LAGARDE: It helps in the sense that we don't necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal.

NOGUCHI: The only other contender for the IMF job was a man, Mexican central banker Agustin Carstens.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.