Open hearts to close divides: Solidarity for peace and prosperity


“Using not only the brain and the wallet, but the heart to close divides”

By Yessica Trejo, Vincent Muzelle, Monica Forero; HEC Paris

Dialogue between Christine Lagarde, Managing director, IMF & Chiara Corazza, CEO, Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society

In a time where protectionism and populism are getting more common, the mission of the IMF is to replace need with prosperity by using public policies. In Christine Lagarde’s words “I’ve tried not only to use the brain, the wallet, but also to open the heart that all of us have”. This is in relation with her way of dealing with the IMFs monetary decisions, her way of changing the culture in the fund. Given the level of resistance and complexity of projects, this phrase has to be lived within the fund.

Economic solutions do have an impact on people lives and that is why funding decisions should take into account both. This can be exemplified with Jamaica, violence against women both domestic violence and feminicides were increasing in the country. A project was created to provide fiscal stability and debt restructure. By improving the economic situation and creating more jobs, crime started to decline, as well as cases of violence against women, showcasing how restoration of economic growth has a direct impact on reducing domestic violence.

Stability -> Economic Growth -> Jobs Creation -> Reduction poverty -> Reduction of general violence -> Reduction of domestic violence

However issues of security go beyond economic stability. For instance, in India, the IMF encouraged the government to finance and improve transportation; this led to women feeling safe and protected in their commute to work, increasing women’s presence in the workforce.

Even though improvements have been made, it is not a mission accomplished yet. In a country as civilized as Japan, women still have a long way to reach gender equality, they do not have access to funding, property or equally paid jobs; this inequality is not related to the country’s economic situation, but to the culture itself. In all places women must have the option to choose, what education they want, if they want to marry, who and when, the job they want to do.

“Bringing more women to the workforce will automatically increase trade and productivity, which will generate an increase in wages, not only for women but also for the entire workforce of a country”.

It is not a matter of women, it is about assuring men and women have the same opportunities. This is the agenda of Christine Lagarde and the IMF, “equality”. Out of the 189 countries with membership, 150 have in their legal system some sort of discrimination towards women; restrains for women to access certain professions, for leaving the country, restrains in property rights, and others.

Every country has to do a little introspection of what is wrong and what measures they can take to change it. Christine encourages governments to do gender budgeting, to drill down with every ministry in the cabinet to ask what percentage in the budget application is going to be helpful to women. Therefore, governments have three major roles:

1.- To increase size of economy mathematically

2.- To reduce inequality, so more women will be payed at the right way

3.- To increase productivity and that will find its way in increasing wages for both man and woman.

Fully closing the participation gap is an illusion, however institutions working together with governments can have an impact in reducing this gap.

The next topic on the agenda was preparing women for the future of work. Two key points came to the fore:

  • Currently, women are doing more repetitive tasks, meaning that robotization will impact more women than men. How can this be prevented facing the future? Together companies and policy makers have the mission to educate, train, and improve skill sets of women whose jobs will be at risk. Drastic measures must be taken, like setting qoutas to universities, in order to ensure specific number of seats for women.
  • More women are needed in STEM. Also primary education has to create the idea that young girls are welcome to the fields of algebra. Women must be prepared to be fine with science, with instances such as Indonesian children that are teaching parents the benefits of an education culture. Today, a larger proportion of women graduate in tertiary sectors like medicine, law etc; but still less than 25% of tech and sciences graduates are women – this needs to change.

Regarding quotas, Christine Lagarde said “As much as I hated quotas when I was young and beautiful, I am strongly in favor of them now”. With this phrase she put a controversial topic in the table that will become trending topic for the rest of the Women’s Forum panels, “quotas”. According to her, drastic measures need to be taken, not forever, but until an improvement is done.

Christine Lagarde concluded with a phrase that managed not only to gain the empathy of the audience, but to inspire the whole of us.

“There are quite few mornings when I think: Wouldn’t it be nicer to be at home with my family doing nothing? But I overcome that moment and what actually motivates me it is groups of women like you, young girls that I meet in all corners of the world who I know are facing tough choices, difficult environment, violence, not enough opportunities. I owe it to them.”


 This article is part of a series on #WFAmericas. Watch the full session on YouTube.