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Influential French Women: Christine Lagarde

In Biography, Politics on December 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Christine Lagarde. Photo from Eric Boman for Vogue: http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/christine-lagarde-changing-of-the-guard/

Short Biography

The role for which Christine Lagarde is best known globally is as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). When Lagarde took up the post in June 2011, she also became the fund’s first female Managing Director.

Born in Paris in 1956, Lagarde attended University and in 1981 became a barrister in Paris. Lagarde then progressed through the hierarchy of the Baker & McKenzie law firm and in 2004 became their Chairman of Global Strategy.

Her political career began in 2005 as Minister for commerce and industry and was then, in 2007, moved to a position as Minister for Agriculture and Fishing, both under Prime Minister François Fillon’s government. In June of 2007 she was made Minister of Finance, another first for a woman. Chrstine was a minister as part of the centre-right UMP party, the same party as the current French President, Nicholas Sarkozy.

Media Coverage of LaGarde

As MD of the IMF, Lagarde has attracted a lot of media attention, not only for her high-profile position, but also because of her “glamour” and “sexiness“. Vogue did a piece on Lagarde which complimented her on her good fashion sense and the combination of femininity and competence that the media often finds so novel in a woman. The Gaurdian produced a piece in a similar vein entitled: “Is the world’s sexist woman? (And the most powerful?)”. The article congratulates Lagarde on “being keen on feminine virtues, then, without being po-faced”. Both of these articles highlight the media’s obsession with links between sexuality, femininity and powerful women.

Fortunately, there was coverage of Lagarde’s appointment to act as counter-balances to the over-analysis of her feminine virtues and “sexiness”. The Economist presented the launch of Lagarde’s bid without even a mere mention of her  Hermès handbag.

Why should you know about her?

Lagarde’s appointment was a momentous victory for feminists and all those frustrated by the unequal representation of women in powerful positions. She has proved, just like Angela Merkel, that it is possible to be a woman in a high profile position without every single article in the media commenting on her appearance. Oh, and I’ve heard she owns a great handbag…

For more information on Christine Lagarde see her government biography here (French): http://www.minefe.gouv.fr/ministere_finances/lagarde.htm and her official IMF bio here (English): http://www.imf.org/external/np/omd/bios/cl.htm 

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