Christine Lagarde Prescribes Grit, Quotas and Smiles for Women in Finance

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European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has some advice for young women in finance: “Don’t underestimate yourself, ever,” she said in an interview published in a Politico podcast late on Thursday.

The first female ECB president also supports gender quotas on boards of banks.

“I wouldn’t say binding targets, but I would say targets for which management is accountable,” she said. “There might be circumstances where you simply are close to target, not on target. And you want to just reassess and identify why you missed the target. But targets, absolutely.”

Only 2% of top level appointees in private sector banks are women, she noted. “There is a long way to go.”

Another tip she offered: “Grit your teeth and smile. It helps.” That’s advice the French national coach in synchronized swimming once gave her that Lagarde has heeded in her long and diverse career in the public and private sectors. Lagarde was a member of team in her teenage years.

The 65-year-old former French trade, agricultural and finance minister entered politics after a career as a lawyer. She later became the first female head of the International Monetary Fund before taking the top post at the Frankfurt-based ECB in 2019.

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