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Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank

Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief, National Geographic

Dressed in an elegant blue turtleneck sweater with a red brooch on her left shoulder Madame Christine Lagarde started on the first question by Susan Goldberg “we want to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, but how have women been affected by Covid?”. She immediately proposed that “sharing the burden is an imperative” and then added that we should focus on “how we can buil back better?”. She also confirmed that women have been hit harder compared to men because this crisis is specifically affecting the service sector (travel, transportation, healthcare) where women are the majority.

After a couple of quick questions on remote jobs and the women’s role of innovator in the working environment where Madam Lagarde suggests keeping personal and professional life well separated and citing the example of Marie Curie as symbol of innovation within a male-led environment as well as the recent example of the couple scientist who led the creation of Covid-19 vaccine.

Ms Goldberg moved to the next big argument: how to inspire women. Madam Lagarde pointed out how difficult is for women to obtain certain high-level positions and when this happens usually there is intimidation on both sides. The President then gave a personal advice to all the women out there that are aiming to prestigious roles: “You always have to know how to dress, address and redress”. But what does that mean? She explains that “dress” means that power come with clothes, because is the proof that you are able to adapt to a certain environment; “address” means that you cannot inspire respect if you don’t know how to address knowledge to people; “redress” means that you must not be complacent and tolerate mediocrity or nasty behaviors. Madam Lagarde emphasized: “women are more prepared, work a lot harder, are more detailed oriented and don’t leave stones unturned”. Then she pointed out that women have to continuously prove to themselves and to others their power and skills, so that’s why they are constantly pushed to be so prepared.

The interview then moved to the final part. Ms Goldberg’s last statement is about the future and asks the ECB President to talk about something that makes her optimistic about the role of women. Madame Lagarde highlighted the central role that women will have in the protection of our planet, that today more than ever is human’s main mission. “Women are pushing a lot in this direction” she said. “Studies show that women are more interested than men and are more motivated to protect our environment”. Ms Goldberg questioned why she thought that would be true and Madame Lagarde replied that it might be linked to women’s role of women in life, since they have the power to give birth and for that reason they feel closer to nature.

To close the session, Madam Lagarde shared one final statement: “we have to share the burden and share the future”.

By Marco Ferrari

As part of our efforts to engage young and emerging leaders, students and alumni from HEC attended and reflected on sessions over the course of the three-day Women’s Forum Global Meeting. Opinions expressed are solely writers’ own and do not express the views or opinions of the Women’s Forum.