‘We need to see more women in leadership positions:’ ECB chief

GENEVA – European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde on Wednesday called for more women's participation in leadership positions.

Speaking at an International Women's Day event organized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Lagarde said women have held only 12% of top jobs at the biggest multilateral institutions since 1945.

"We need to see more women in leadership positions since that could support trade openness and arrest the slide towards fragmentation," said Lagarde.

She said female leaders tend to possess qualities especially beneficial in geopolitical tensions.

"One study finds that they are particularly good at thinking holistically, managing complexity and embracing cooperation – attributes that are ideal when it comes to trade negotiations," she added.

Decades of advances rolled back

Lagarde said that Wednesday's discussion was critical when geopolitical tensions and the fragmenting of world trade threatened to roll back decades of advances in women's economic empowerment.

"Since the great financial crisis, the global economy has been hit by a series of unprecedented shocks – most recently, Russia's war against Ukraine. And all this has taken its toll on trade growth, which has plateaued as a share of world GDP," she said.

She said protectionism is rising as countries reconfigure their supply chains to align with new strategic goals.

"The number of trade restrictions in place has jumped tenfold over the last decade," said the ECB president.

She said this did not mean the world faces outright deglobalization, but the nature of globalization is changing.

Trade within blocs

"We are likely to see more trade within blocs as countries that share common values and interests deepen their trade ties to increase their resilience to external shocks and threats," said Lagarde.

She said the rise of global trade has “intricately tied into women's emancipation.”

"In developing countries, firms that trade internationally are also those that employ more women. Women make up a third of the workforce of such firms, compared to less than a quarter for non-exporting firms," the ECB president said.

"And in advanced economies, tariff burdens can at times fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. In the US, the average tariff rates on products for women are higher than those for men," she added.

Meanwhile, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic deepened, the World Economic Forum estimated it would take 100 years to attain gender equality or gender parity.

"The latest estimate is 132 (years). So, we've been set back 32 years already," said the WTO chief.

She said the World Bank has estimated that 70 million people have fallen into absolute poverty because of this. (Anadolu)