'I look to encourage women . . . give them prominence'
WOMEN:As part of her visit to Dublin, Christine Lagarde will host a lunch tomorrow to mark International Women’s Day . Among those invited are the three women members of the Cabinet and Olympic boxing champion Katie Taylor.
“One could not think of spending that day without being in the company of women and Irishwomen in particular,” she says.
The lunch is a personal initiative of Lagarde but chimes with International Monetary Fund policy.
“It is personal because I have always done it [encourage women]. And I think it makes a lot of economic and financial sense as well.”
Women are underpaid compared with men, despite doing equal work. They don’t have enough access to financing when they set up enterprises and are better educated and more skilled than many men, according to Lagarde.
“So I look to encourage women and to give them prominence whenever I visit a country.”
It is also IMF policy, as part of its routine surveillance of countries, to see to what extent women are part of the workforce. “If we can identify whether that is not the case and say so, in our reports, that is helpful.”
Lagarde enjoyed a successful career as a corporate lawyer in the US before turning to politics. Corporate law was not a profession or a business environment known for having a very enlightened approach to women or even one in which women particularly supported one another.
“I don’t mean to be dismissive but I think it is very much an attitude of the past. Many, many women I meet are keen to help out other women and to encourage their daughters.
“That kind of ‘I’ve had a tough time [so] you will have a tough time too’ approach to life, which is what I encountered when I was interviewing for law firms and trying to apply for jobs, that is, I hope, vanishing,
She quotes former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
“She was a little bit older than me. She faced the same issues and she wrote in one of her books that there should be a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. I think she is damn right!”