Meet The IMF's New Leader, Christine Lagarde France's finance minister will be the first woman to head the IMF. She has led France through a financial crisis and helped corral European support for the initial Greece bailout. Lagarde is also a fierce champion for the advancement of women.
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Meet The IMF's New Leader, Christine Lagarde

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Meet The IMF's New Leader, Christine Lagarde

Meet The IMF's New Leader, Christine Lagarde

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


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.


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.


You went in there and fired a couple of bankers.

LAGARDE: Yes, I did, sir.

STEWART: Can you fire a couple of ours?


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.


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.

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