ECB’s Lagarde says business needs more women leaders

Edna B. Shearer

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said Friday that there are still too few women in top jobs, and that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

“There are still too few women in management worldwide, particularly in the economic and financial spheres, including central banks,” she said in an interview with French economics weekly Challenges.

Lagarde, the first female chief in the ECB’s history, lamented that the 19 eurozone central banks are all run by men, and that she and her German colleague Isabel Schnabel were the only women on the ECB’s 25-member governing council. 

“That’s not how it should be!” she said.

Arguing for changes in the workplace, Lagarde said men should be encouraged to take paternity leave, and it should be granted to them for “longer periods than their current entitlement of a few days or weeks.”

Noting that the gender wage gap was still 13 percent among the wealthy OECD countries, Lagarde also pointed out that “gender inequality still exists in terms of access to the job market”.

And the coronavirus has worsened inequality, she said. 

“During lockdown, (women) have been active on all fronts, forced to work while caring for their children, not to mention coping with the threat of domestic violence. As in every economic crisis, they are at greater risk of losing their jobs or of having their wages cut.”

Although Lagarde said men were more accepting than before of women in senior positions, the real change in mentality will come “when nobody, male or female, questions the legitimacy of a woman holding a position of power”.

On Twitter, Schnabel praised Lagarde for raising her voice.

“It is hard to overstate how hugely important it is to have leaders like Christine Lagarde who openly speak out on these issues in spite of all the dreadful, misogynist comments that will certainly follow. #EmpowerWomen,” she wrote.

Since taking on the top ECB role late last year, Lagarde, 64, has repeatedly spoken about gender issues.

In July, she said female leaders — including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — were doing a better job handling the coronavirus crisis.

“I would say that for myself, I’ve learned that women tend to do a better job,” said the former French finance minister and head of the International Monetary Fund, praising the women for their honest communication and for showing they cared.


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