When Christine Lagarde launched her bid to be the new head of the IMF last week she declared that she would bring to the job all her “experience as a lawyer, a minister, a manager and a woman”.
The first three strands of her experience are self-explanatory – and formidable. But what did Ms Lagarde mean by the fourth? What exactly is her experience as a woman? And how does it make her a better candidate for a job that involves flying round the world rescuing countries that are going down the financial plughole?
The most obvious thing that sorts out a woman’s experience from a man’s is that women bear children. On two occasions, Ms Lagarde has spent the best part of a year with a growing lump in her abdomen, and then endured the tricky business of getting it out. For most women this is a very big deal, though it’s not obvious how such an experience sets anyone up for running the IMF.
As children grow up, however, a mother (or, in truth, a father) can find herself doling out pocket money. Human nature being what it is, this often gets blown instantly on sweets, leaving nothing to spend on, say, a sibling’s birthday present. The mother then faces the tricky decision of whether to bail the child out, and what conditions to impose on any loan extended. I can see that dealing with such dilemmas could be relevant to a future head of the IMF, the only difference being one of degree: rather more countries requiring rather larger sums.