Christine Lagarde, the first female managing director of the International Monetary Fund, speaking at the Forbes Women’s Summit in New York City, declared: “There are only 6 countries in the world where there is no legal discrimination at all between men and women.”
Or put another way: Of the IMF’s 189 member countries, nearly 90% have at least one gender-based legal restriction, from limitations on what women can inherit and whether they can borrow money to prohibitions on their ability to take custody of their children. Lagarde’s assessment: “We need to work on that.”
The IMF aims to ensure the stability of the global monetary system, promote international trade and economic growth, and reduce poverty. It wields $1 trillion in lending power for its members. Lagarde sees empowering women as more than a social imperative, because it has the potential to transform the global economy. As inequality rises, the gap between men’s and women’s participation in the workforce is hovering at around 16%, even in advanced economies. She believes major economic woes could be lessened by narrowing this gap. “It’s just a no-brainer that economies would grow, productivity would improve, and we would have more stability,” she said.