NEW YORK -- The head of the International Monetary Fund has called gender equality a “moral imperative” that would also act to bring about a “more profitable global economy”. Speaking to Arianna Huffington about the publication on an IMF report into the female labour force, Christine Lagarde said the struggle for gender equality the workplace is “a moral issue, a moral imperative… though quite often you have to demonstrate the business case” to encourage adoption.
Lagarde said that it is important to demonstrate to policy makers and politicians that equality in the workplace “actually makes economic sense,” and that a level playing field can spark “more growth,” as well as bring about a “more diverse society,” that can be “much more profitable from the global economic point of view.”
Called ‘Fair Play: More Equal Laws Boost Female Labour Force Participation,’ the report, published on Monday, found that restrictions on women’s rights are strongly associated with gender gaps in labour force participation, which can negatively impact a country’s GDP.
On why companies ignore evidence that gender equality promotes profitability, Lagarde said it was because reversing the trend would require a “change in process, and change is always painful.” The 59-year-old former French minister for economic affairs added: “It’s always much more conformable… to do thing the way they have been done, [rather than] accept that innovation can be profitable”.
Lagarde argued that the countries that had greater female participation in the labour force did not achieve this at the expense of the male labour force. “Those societies that have removed and reduced the legal barriers for women have not increased male unemployment," she said, adding: "Because you open the space for women to access the job market and for women to contribute to the economy does not mean there are fewer jobs and fewer opportunities for men.”
On the recent deal between the European Union and Greece to keep the beleaguered state in the eurozone, Lagarde told Huffington that the main objective should be to “maintain stability” in the country.
“Greece has to go through very in-depth sometime difficult reforms that will have to tackle vested interests, protected professions, rigidity in various markets, and I very much hope the new [Greek] authorities appreciate that group of reforms will unleash potential, will help productivity because without those reforms the sacrifices that have been made will not lead to substantive and sustainable growth,” she said.
However, Lagarde would not be drawn on the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone. "This is not on the cards and it’s not being discussed," she said. "Last week was a triggering point where there was a collective determination to listen, to build trust and do the best to stay together. Everybody should be focusing on that."
When asked whether the US or France would have the first female president, the IMF boss said "the United States,” while dismissing herself from any future run for the top job in Paris.
Watch the full interview below.