• Stephen Jaffe/IMF, via Getty

    Woman Power

    Christine Lagarde’s Tightrope Act

    The International Monetary Fund chief runs the famously bureaucratic organization in a collegial fashion even as she challenges orthodoxy. On the eve of her appearance at the Women in the World summit, Daniel Gross explains the critical role she plays in the global economy.

    The 21st century dispute between Europe and Russia over the Crimea won’t include another Charge of the Light Brigade. But the financial cavalry did come riding to the rescue, in the form of the International Monetary Fund.

    In late March, the IMF agreed to offer between $14 billion and $18 billion of funding and support to Ukraine’s government, as it attempts to wean itself from the cheap financing and energy that Russia had used to keep the former Ukrainian government firmly in its thrall.

  • Women in the World Summit 2014

    Clinton & Lagarde Team Up

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde are joining Tina Brown’s fifth annual Women in the World Summit April 3.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde are joining Tina Brown’s fifth annual Women in the World Summit. They will engage in a conversation together at Lincoln Center opening night, Thursday, April 3, moderated by Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times.

    Tina Brown, founder of Women in the World, said: “We are thrilled to bring this historic and stimulating dialogue to Women in the World this year. Secretary Clinton and Madame Lagarde are the leading examples of women breaking gender barriers with every move they make.” Both have appeared independently before at the summit.

  • Catherine Ashton addresses foreign ministers during a joint council meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union in Manama, Bahrain on June 30, 2013. (Hasan Jamali/AP)

    Dark Horse

    Lady Ashton’s Victory Lap

    Unknown and unglamorous, Lady Ashton silenced critics by forging an unlikely peace accord between Serbia and Kosovo, writes Eleanor Clift.

    When Catherine Ashton was named High Representative for Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy for the European Union, the predominantly male foreign policy community harrumphed its disapproval. She lacked star power, and she had no background in foreign affairs. She’d been the EU’s trade commissioner, and before that she was in the Parliament as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Lancashire, a coal mining community, where she grew up in a working-class family.

    No one was more surprised than Ashton herself to get the nod for the newly created post. She hadn’t campaigned for it, and emerged only as the consensus choice after considerable jockeying among the 27 EU member nations. That was November 2009; now she is almost four years into her five-year term, and doubts about her leadership in the sensitive post have been put to rest by her performance.

  • Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty

    Drama in Finance

    Christine Lagarde to Appear in Court: Report

    Reportedly will be questioned over her role in “L’Affaire Tapie.”

    It’s been a busy week for IMF head Christine Lagarde. On the eve of the twice-yearly, high-level IMF and World Bank meetings, The New York Times and Reuters report that Lagarde is set to appear before a French magistrate on May 23 in connection with an arbitration payment made to a billionaire supporter of former president Nicholas Sarkozy. (The original source for the news, the website Mediapart, cites unnamed sources as the origin of the claim.)

    The backstory: During Lagarde’s tenure as France’s finance minister, she ended a court battle between the state and Bernard Tapie, a wealthy businessman and political backer of Sarkozy. At question was his sale of a stake in Adidas to the state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais in 1993. The bank later resold the stake for more money, and Tapie cried defraudation. (Credit Lyonnais has denied wrongdoing.) Lagarde has previously said that she did nothing wrong by accepting arbitration to settle the dispute. But magistrates responsible for vetting allegations of ministerial abuse seem to suspect that Lagarde was complicit in misusing public funds—in the end, the state paid $371 million of taxpayer money to Tapie—when she pushed ahead with the arbitration. An IMF spokesman declined to comment on the case, but noted that the IMF’s executive board “continues to express its confidence in the managing director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties.”

  • Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) France's Christine Lagarde speaks during the opening plenary session on the first day of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Davos, Switzerland, on January 23, 2013. (Laurent Gillieron/EPA, via Landov)

    High Value

    Why Investing in Women Works

    When companies support women, write Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli, their businesses and communities win.

    Here in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, much of the discussion is about economic growth. The International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde inspired those attending to focus on the power of what she termed “inclusive growth”: “the evidence is clear, as is the message: when women do better, economies do better.” Today, visionary companies that initially embraced this notion through corporate philanthropy are now making investments in women a pillar of their business strategies.

    In recent years, investing in women has become more than inspiring rhetoric or good PR for a company. It’s now becoming a core business strategy yielding quantifiable returns. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in 2011, to “achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come.” By “increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity,” the secretary said, “we can have a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies.”