Christine Lagarde has secured the top spot at the ECB (European Central Bank), despite coming from a non-traditional background of a Central Banker. Lagarde’s unconventional career trajectory has been a difficult yet prosperous one, allowing her to achieve a series of historical firsts along the way. As a proud advocate for women’s rights, the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continues to guide the Eurozone through the coronavirus pandemic and is already leaving her mark.
On 1 November 2019, the French trailblazer was elected as the first female president of the European Central Bank, allowing her to secure second place in the ranking of the Forbes Most Powerful Women in the World for two consecutive years.
Although her strong, confident demeanor is often intimidating, Christine Lagarde exposes a different side of when revealing her journey to the top.
7 Surprising Facts About Christine Lagarde
1. ‘Grit your teeth and smile’
In her teenage years, Christine Legarde developed a passion for synchronized swimming, achieving a bronze medal as part of the French national team. Lagarde states that: “It was synchronized swimming that taught me: Grit your teeth and smile”. Although the phrase was originally used by her coach, Lagarde now uses this analogy as a way of encouraging women to persevere in their fight against Gender inequality in the workplace.
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2. ‘I don’t pretend to be the standard-setter’
As the former head of the IMF and current ECB president, it may come as a surprise that in her yearbook testimonial Lagarde wrote, “Please no more math”. Although this has definitely spurred some controversy within the industry, Lagarde is not one to take criticism personally. She goes on to explain that she although she is still not a huge fan of the subject, she doesn’t “pretend to be the standard-setter”.
3. Career Milestones – Making History
After pursuing a career as a litigator, Madam Lagarde achieved her first career milestone in 1999 where she became the first female Chair of major law firm Baker & McKenzie. Her path was then redirected into politics and finance, allowing her add to her legacy, as she became the first women to serve as France’s minister of Finance (2007-2011), as the head of the IMF (2011-2019) and as the current president of the ECB (2019 – ).
4. Rose Amongst theThorns
In an effort to change the manner in which women are perceived in the corporate world, Lagarde was drawn to industries which were predominantly driven by men. As the eldest of four, Legarde grew up in a “boy’s world” with three younger brothers and was generally surrounded by boys. Although she admits to being a victim of gender discrimination on numerous occasions, she believes that her upbringing played a critical role in molding her character stating that,“When you come with that sentiment of having been in a minority for a long period of time, then you are much more attentive to minorities”.
5. Risk and Reward
Six years after being elected as Chairman of Baker McKenzie, Christine Legarde left her prestigious position in law to represent France, her home country as Minister of Commerce (2005 – 2007) and in 2007 Lagarde was appointed as French Minister of the Economy, Industry and Finance, guiding the nation through the 2008 Financial Crisis. Lagarde is not afraid of risks, she actually believes that’s the first step to progress.
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Christine Lagarde is a major role model for women entering into finance and has been antagonized for her feministic views. However, she believes that men and women both have a place in the economy. She says that, “It’s a question of not so much pushing the boys out of the picture, but making the whole frame bigger so that both men and women access the labor market, contribute to the economy, generate growth, have jobs, and so on.”
7. Pick your Fights & Persist
In 1979 Lagarde interviewed for a position at a major international law firm in Paris. With good grades and matching credentials, they agreed to take her on as an associate but said she would never make partner due to the fact that she’s a woman. Although the offer was still rather attractive, Lagarde left the interview. In her explanation, she says, “In the face of adversity, go. They don’t deserve you.”
However, she also goes on to say that, “you need to pick your fights and really persist”.
Although the trajectory ahead is not going to be an easy one, Christine Lagarde is definitely one woman who is up for the challenge.
— Written by Tammy Da Costa, Market Writer for DailyFX.com
Contact and follow Tammy on Twitter: @Tams707