Christine Lagarde: Global economy needs more input from women to recover


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The global economy will only improve if women are allowed to take a greater role in the workplace, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said.

She warned that companies and nations are failing to make use women’s skills and are “tossing away economic growth at a time when it cannot afford such wanton waste”.

Women’s increased participation in the workforce would benefit the whole population, Ms Lagarde told the World Assembly for Women conference in Tokyo.

“Women are the ultimate agents of aggregate demand, accounting for 70 per cent of global consumer spending. So if we want growth, let us put women in the driver’s seat,” she said.

Ms Lagarde, a former French finance minister, said that countries must change their institutions, attitudes and culture in order to make better use of their female talent.

“This means knocking down the outdated obstacles that hold women back. In part, that means taking diversity seriously – ‘daring the difference’ as I call it,” she said.

“It means taking a “leap of faith” in hiring women, promoting women, investing in women. And it means having recourse to strong mentors and role models who can reach out and pull up women up behind them.”

Cherie Blair, the QC and wife of Tony Blair, also attended the conference to take part in a discussion with Akie Abe, the wife of Japan’s Prime Minister.

Mrs Blair, who read law at the London School of Economics and came top of her year in the bar exams, said that she had experienced prejudice when she tried to get her first job as a young lawyer. “There was an obstacle to going further and that was my gender.”

Mrs Blair contested the seat of North Thanet in Kent for Labour at the 1983 UK general election but was not elected. She contrasted this with her husband’s selection to fight the safe seat of Sedgefield. “That was another typical example of what was happening which was as the woman you were given the bad seat because you weren’t really regarded as a good prospect. However let me say that just like he knows I am the better lawyer, I know he is the better politician."