French lawyer and politician currently serving as the President of the European Central Bank since 2019, Christine Lagarde is one of the highest ranked women in business, representing many “firsts.” She was the first woman to chair international law firm Baker McKenzie, the first woman to serve as a finance minister of a G-7 country, and the first to take the helm of both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the ECB. Cool-headed, sophisticated, and known for her straight talking, she has become a prominent role model for women in the business world.
Lagarde was educated in the United States and France. After being admitted as a lawyer to the Paris Bar, she joined Baker McKenzie in 1981 as an associate. In 2005, after more than two decades as a lawyer, she joined the French government as Minister for Foreign Trade. Following a quick shift to a role as Agricultural Minister, in 2007 she became France’s Finance Minister and played a key role during the global financial crisis before running the IMF from 2011 to 2019. Her international experience and diplomatic skills certainly helped her navigate the complexities of the field.
However, her incredible career has not been without its professional challenges. For instance, in 2016, she was found guilty of negligence for failing to challenge the state arbitration payout to a friend of a former French President. She has also faced sexism and discrimination throughout her career, which in turn has turned her into an outspoken advocate for gender rights and female leadership.
According to her, empowering women is not just a social imperative, it enables the transformation of the global economy. She once stated, "women are generally given space and appointed to jobs when the situation is tough. I've observed that in many instances. In times of crisis, women eventually are called upon to sort out the mess, face the difficult issues and be completely focused on restoring the situation."
Her career has already proved the difference women leaders can make. She learned determination at a young age from her mother and created opportunities not only for women in her organization, but across the world.